Divide et Impera: How Russian Propaganda Sows Doubts about Kakhovka Tragedy

On June 6, Russia committed another terrorist act, provoking one of the biggest technological disasters of recent decades. Predictably, Russian propaganda started the traditional “mirroring the blame” tactics, trying to explain logically why it was unprofitable for Russia to blow up the dam and why Ukraine is to blame.

Among the most “convincing” arguments, there are:

  • an attempt to justify Ukraine’s failures on the battlefield;
  • the use of catastrophe as an excuse for the delay of Ukraine’s counteroffensive
  • an attempt to “revive” the mobilization campaign in Ukraine
  • create the provocation at Zaporizhzhya NPP (which is now occupied by Russia);
  • leaving Crimea without water.

However, such logical chains do not include the fact that the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant was under the control of Russian occupational forces, mined by Russian troops in April 2022, and the possible blow of the dam has been systematically used by Russian propaganda as a threat and an instrument of blackmail against Kyiv.

In October 2022, the Ukrainian President made an official statement at the European Council warning the international community that Russians have mined the Kakhovka dam and planned a false flag terrorist act.

Now, Russian propaganda mouthpieces are gloating about another Ukrainian tragedy and threatening Ukrainians with blowing up the dam of the Kyiv reservoir, which “will provoke a flood killing hundreds of thousands of Kyiv residents”. Meanwhile, the representatives of the Moscow patriarchate in Ukraine put forward the version that the blow-up was an aftermath of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Reserve terminating its agreements with the Russian Orthodox Church. 

According to the version of the TASS agency and “Kherson region’s Russia-installed leader” V. Saldo, “after the Ukrainian Armed Forces destroyed the dam, the situation plays in favor of Russian forces”. However, such inconsistency does not bother Saldo since he was previously saying that “the city of Nova Kakhovka is alive, people are walking calmly on the streets, shops and gas stations are working” while standing by the window showing the flooded city. 

Now, Russian propaganda also traditionally tries to strengthen its position in the global information space by exploiting the Western “experts”. Thus, the key arguments of the Russian side were also mentioned on the Twitter account of pro-Russian ex-Fox TV host Tucker Carlson, who also claimed that the Kakhovka dam was blown by Ukraine because it was “too unbeneficial for Russia”.

The statement was retweeted by Elon Musk and Dmitry Polyanskiy, the First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN. Unlike the unhidden Russian propaganda resources, such twits do not provoke such rejection and gain dozens of millions of views promoting the same toxic narratives. 

Neutral international organizations’ statements, such as the one made by the UN about civilians being “not a target” without even mentioning the fact that Russia is waging a war of annihilation against Ukraine. Such communications only deepen the tendency of “blurring the responsibility” and ruining the “aggress-victim” dichotomy, and promoting classical Russian propaganda narrative about everything being “not so clear”.

Such a tendency is strengthened in the public discourse by the Western media (among which there are Reuters, New York Times, and Washington Post) publications emphasizing that “Ukraine and Russia blame each other”. 

Meanwhile, the consequences of the Kakhovka catastrophe can hardly be described as “beneficial” for Ukraine, with people missing, about 80 settlements flooded, 333 animal and plant species under threat of destruction. While on the right bank of Kherson oblast people and animals are now evacuated, on the left bank, which is occupied by Russian forces, Ukrainians are being let down and ignored by the occupational authorities.

Using the scorched earth strategy as a method of war, Russia also uses the same approach in the information space, trying to erase or deny all the disadvantageous or compromising facts. After all, after the news about the zoological garden in occupied Nova Kakhovka, being completely flooded due to the explosion and all the animals dead, the official position of the Russian media was to pretend there was no zoo at all.

Okay, there is NO LONGER any zoo.