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Energy, environment, economy: long-term consequences of the Russian terrorist attack on the Kakhovka HPP

On June 6, 2023, Russian occupiers blew up the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant. About 80 villages were in the flood zone. Thousands of people lost their houses and waited for evacuation for several days on the roofs of what they used to call home. 

According to a report by the Government of Ukraine and the United Nations, the damage caused by the dam’s collapse amounted to $14 billion as of October 2023. This number may become much larger when Ukraine is able to evaluate the damaged areas that are currently under Russian occupation.

One thing is clear: the blowing up of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant is a terrorist act by Russia that will have many long-term consequences that Ukraine will have to deal with for decades.

A satellite image shows the collapsed dam on Tuesday, June 6, 2023.
Photo: Handout/Planet Labs PBC/Reuters


“Nature has shown a good ability to recover,” said Bohdan Kuchenko, an ecosystem conservation specialist at the Ecodia Center for Environmental Initiatives.

According to him, the explosion of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant was the “culmination” of changes in the region. Since the first days of the full-scale invasion, the Kherson region has been under constant shelling, which has had and continues to have a major impact on the flora and fauna.

When the Russians blew up the dam, it caused the almost instantaneous death of a large number of birds that had placed their nests on the riverbank. The explosion of the engine room of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant released 150 tons of oil into the Dnipro Rіver, which also led to the death of a significant number of fish. The mixing of fresh water from the reservoir and saltwater from the Black Sea created unsuitable living conditions for many species of aquatic life.

However, the large mass of water in the Black Sea was able to neutralize the chemicals brought into it after the explosion.

A neighborhood of Kherson, Ukraine, remained flooded on Saturday, June 10,
following the collapse of the Kakhovka dam days earlier.
Photo: AP

According to the expert, both birds and fish will take several years to a decade to fully recover.

“The areas above the floodplain were also affected. This means that those parts of the region that had not been flooded for decades suddenly were under water for almost a week. This period of time was enough for some species to die,” says Bohdan Kochenko.

Among the affected animals were also three species of rare rodents that are not found anywhere else but in the Kherson region. According to preliminary estimates, they have lost about 50% of their population.

The impact of the dam’s explosion also spread to regions that were not affected by the reservoir’s flood. The rise in the water level was enough to destroy rodent burrows, and a rare species of steppe viper was also threatened. 

“However, the situation is not as dramatic now as it was predicted immediately after the terrorist attack,” the ecologist assures.

The Kherson region is known for its diversity. It is home to aquatic ecosystems, sand dunes, and young poplar forests are beginning to form on the site of a dried-up reservoir. 

In the next few years, there is a chance that steppe ecosystems and alkaline ecosystems will form. This diversity of landscapes allows for maintaining a large variety of living species.

Part of the riverbed, located on the territory of the Kamianska Sich National Park, is covered with new greenery.
Photo: Serhii Skoryk

Energy sector

On the scale of the entire power system, hydropower generates a relatively small amount of electricity – recently, this figure has fluctuated between 7-8% of total consumption.

Despite its relatively small share in the consumption structure, electricity from hydropower plants is critical for balancing the entire power system. Hydroelectric power plants and pumped storage power plants (PSPPs) are able to collect excess energy and store it until the moment when there is a shortage in the grid.

If necessary, HPPs and PSPPs can significantly increase electricity production in a matter of minutes, covering peak load hours, and help maintain the power system in emergency situations. For example, during Russia’s attacks on energy facilities.

According to estimates by the Kyiv School of Economics in cooperation with the Presidential Office, the disaster caused $624 million in losses to Ukraine’s energy sector. After the loss of Kakhovka HPP, Ukrhydroenergo alone lost $100 million annually.

Due to Russian occupation, Kakhovska HPP has not been operating in Ukraine’s power system since October 2022, and its explosion did not become a turning point. However, despite the fact that the Kakhovska HPP had the smallest installed capacity in the Dnipro cascade with 335 MW, it was a key facility for the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in regulating the peak load of the power system.

The explosion of the Kakhovka HPP affected the water level at other Ukrainian hydroelectric power plants, which could potentially lead to an imbalance in the power system. 

Given that Russia has been trying to destroy Ukraine’s power grid for two years, it will be possible to make plans for the restoration of all stations only after the victory.


The economic consequences of this attack affected several sectors at once: agriculture, infrastructure, and the food supply.

According to the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), a joint study by the UN and the Ukrainian government, the damage to Kherson region’s agriculture is estimated at $406.6 million.

The destruction of the Kakhovka Reservoir left 94% of irrigation systems in the Kherson region, 74% in the Zaporizhzhia region, and 30% in the Dnipro region without water. This significantly affected agricultural activities in these regions.

The floods have affected the housing stock of the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions the most. Reconstruction will cost at least $950 million, most of which will be needed to rebuild settlements on the left bank of the Dnipro River that are currently under temporary occupation.

Industrial enterprises that provided a significant volume of exports before the full-scale Russian invasion now have to build new logistics routes and find alternative sources of water supply.

The destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant is an ecocide that Russia committed on purpose. The occupiers do not care about the destroyed towns, the dead populations of rare animals, or the destroyed agricultural potential. 

This should become a key factor in shaping a new way of thinking about war crimes against the environment at the international level. Ukraine is the first country to investigate the crime of ecocide during the war. In addition, one of the points of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula, “Environmental Security,” is focused not just on calculating environmental damage, demining and restoring nature, but also on preventing any further damage to nature.

It is essential to hold Russians accountable for their crimes against nature committed in Ukraine and to make the aggressor pay for the environmental damage caused by its brutal war.