Three months later, the turbines at the site, located in Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, are running and humming in an incessant hubbub.
The installation is intact, the water flows and flows into the Dnieper River.
AFP was able to go there on May 20, during a press visit organized by the Russian Ministry of Defense, under the permanent surveillance of hooded soldiers armed with submachine guns.
Many Russian officials have indicated that Russia aims to annex the Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia, thus forming a land bridge, connecting Russian territory with Crimea.
And the plant, still painted in Ukrainian colors, is considered a sensitive “strategic object”. It is located quite far from the front, further north, but the Russians, who occupy the area, fear “sabotage”.
“There were attempts (by saboteurs) to bring explosive charges there, but they were all foiled,” said Vladimir Leontiev, a pro-Russian appointed by Moscow to be responsible for the civil and military administration of the Kakhovka district.
Mr. Leontiev does not detail these accusations and only underlines that a rupture of the dam would cause a “great misfortune” and devastating floods.
On the dam, a large breach pierces the safety barrier of the road, as if a vehicle had crossed it. No explanation from the authorities.
– “A lot of water” for Crimea –
Built in 1956, during the Soviet period, the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam allows water to be sent into the North Crimean Canal, which starts in southern Ukraine and crosses the entire peninsula.
But after the 2014 annexation, kyiv turned off the tap. A measure that has caused major problems with irrigation and access to water in Crimea.
New pro-Russian authorities say water deliveries to Crimea through the canal resumed in early March and now 1.7 million cubic meters are sent to the peninsula every day.
“There is a lot, a lot of water going to Crimea. For the moment, we are proceeding without asking for payment, it is our contribution to compensate for the losses suffered by Ukrainians and Russians for eight years”, proclaims Mr. Leontiev.
He indicates that “all the staff” of the plant have remained on site and have been working without interruption since February 24. Civilians, after being checked by Russian soldiers, can continue to use the road on the dam which crosses the Dnieper.
The plant continues to produce electricity which joins the unified Ukrainian grid and supplies both the areas still under kyiv’s control and those conquered by Moscow.
“We cannot stop the production of energy and its sending into the unified (Ukrainian) network”, notes Vladimir Leontiev. For the moment, “it is physically impossible”.