I first saw it only on Russian-language channels, so I was shocked to discover that Unimedia (🇲🇩) was initially the sole Romanian-language media in Moldova to report that the city of Otaci (🇲🇩) (known in Russian and Ukrainian as Ataki) and a few surrounding villages are now underwater “thanks” to the government of Ukraine.
Otaci is the northernmost city in Moldova and home to a border crossing with Ukraine that you can read a bit more about in English from this report back in March.
What’s going is that Ukraine has released a massive amount of water from the reservoir that powers its hydroelectric plant at Novodnestrovsk (🇲🇩). This huge energy generating complex (the largest hydropower station in all of Europe) lies at the northern end of the Dniester River.
This is the power plant that was hit by Russian missiles back on October 31 when a few fragments from a Ukrainian air defense missile landed across the river on the Moldovan village of Naslavcea (just down the road from Otaci).
Projections are that the Dniester River will rise by up to four meters in the upper part of the river over the next couple of days. There’s a hydroelectric dam in Dubasari (operated by PMR) that will “catch” some of the water, so everything further downstream (including Tiraspol) is likely to only see a two-meter rise in the river levels.
Clearly, Ukraine is trying to boost its electricity generating capacity by ramping up operations at Novodnestrovsk, which is understandable given that its electric grid is being pounded to bits by Russian attacks. Still, though, what a lovely way to treat your “ally” in Moldova by flooding it out, eh?
Last year, Moldova was in direct talks with Ukraine (which have been going nowhere since 2016) about the Novodnestrovsk HPP because there were worries that the plant would take too much water out of the Dniester, which supplies 70% of Moldova’s (and 100% of PMR’s) drinking water (🇲🇩), as well as cause an ecological disaster in the river itself.
For much more on this, I highly recommend reading this excellent academic paper (PDF) from 2018 called “Why Ukrainian hydropower infrastructure on the Dniester will destroy Moldova.”