When the Kakhovka dam was bombed by the Russians last week, it caused the draining of one of Europe’s biggest water reservoirs, revealing submerged bodies and military equipment, a reminder of the clash between the Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators and the retreating Soviet Red Army.
In 1941, as Nazi troops swept through Soviet Ukraine, Josef Stalin’s agents blew up the hydroelectric dam in the southern city of Zaporizhzhya, to slow the Nazi advance. The explosion flooded villages along the banks of the Dnieper River, killing thousands of civilians, and, apparently, Nazi soldiers.
After the June 6 explosion of the Kakhovka Dam by Russia, which caused the water to empty to the bottom of the reservoir, human remains from the Second World War emerged.
“There are probably lots of bodies in the vicinity,” Kyiv Post correspondent Jason Jay Smart tweeted on Sunday. “I’d imagine before it was a dam it was a basin of some sort. When the Soviets destroyed the Zaporizhia Dam in 1941, since no official death toll was released at the time, the estimated number of victims varies widely. Most historians put it at between 20,000 and 100,000, based on the number of people then living in the flooded areas. Survivor Oleksiy Dotsenko says the Dnieper turned red that day. ‘People were screaming for help. Cows were mooing, pigs were squealing. People were climbing on trees,’ he recalled.”
Videos from the emptied reservoir have gone viral on social media, featuring skulls with helmets peeking out of the reservoir mud. Here’s one, posted by Smart:
World War II Remains Found
After the explosion of the Kakhovskaya Dam, by Russia ??, which caused the water to empty to the bottom of the reservoir, human remains of people from the Second World War were found. pic.twitter.com/4EiKWZ2GKk
— Jason Jay Smart (@officejjsmart) June 11, 2023
Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that “ammunition, in particular, even from the time of the Second World War, is found in the areas of the Kakhovsky Reservoir,” and warned civilians to stay away from the draining reservoir because the water is contaminated.
UN Undersecretary-General Martin Griffiths told the AP on Monday that the humanitarian situation in Ukraine is “hugely worse” as a result of the collapsed dam.
“700,000 people need drinking water … the ravages of flooding in one of the world’s most important breadbaskets will almost inevitably lead to lower grain exports, higher food prices around the world, and less to eat for millions in need,” Griffiths said, noting that, “the truth is this is only the beginning of seeing the consequences of this act.”