Russian missiles target Karachun dam

by Tobias Schmitz

5 Oct 2022 by The Water Diplomat

On the evening of the 14th of September, eight Russian cruise missiles struck the Karachun dam on the Inhulets River in Ukraine, releasing a flood surge that reached almost three metres in height. The surge of water flooded parts of the town of Kryvyi Rih, which had a population of 650 000 before the war, sweeping away bridges and damaging homes.  More than 100 homes were submerged, and some 5000 people were left without water supplies. At the time of the strike, the dam was located 50 km from the Russian-Ukrainian front and cannot therefore be classified as 'collateral damage' from the conflict. On the contrary, the fact that cruise missiles with a high level of accuracy were used in this attack appears to indicate that attacking the dam was intentional. In an assessment  provided by the Institute for the Study of War on September 14th, Russian forces likely targeted hydraulic infrastructure to interfere with Ukrainian operations across the Inhulets River. Ukrainian troops had laid pontoon bridges across the Inhulets River further downstream as part of their Kherson counteroffensive.       

Despite heavy damage to the Karachun dam, flood damage was swiftly reduced and the water supply in the city had been restored two days later.  The city administration worked throughout the night on the 15th of September to lower the water level flooding the city, blowing up the dam in two further places to reduce the excess flow 13 centimetres. In a video reaction released two days later, president Zelenski condemned the attack, stating that the targeted infrastructure has ‘no military value at all, in fact hitting hundreds of thousands of ordinary civilians’.