Skulls ‘uncovered’ in reservoir after being drained following Ukraine dam breach

Dozens of skeletons have reportedly emerged from the bed of the reservoir along the Dnipro River, which has been emptying over the past week as a result of the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam. Footage posted online, which couldn’t be independently verified due to the fighting in the area, show skulls scattered on both sides of the Dnipro.

The human remains are believed to date back decades, as one skull can be seen wearing a World War II helmet.

Eight decades ago, the area became the theatre of the Battle of the Dnipro, during which thousands of German and Soviet soldiers lost their lives.

During this key WWII fight, the Soviet Army launched a counter-attack against the Germans, an operation which involved more than six million troops.

In late 1943, the fight focused on Nikopol, where many of the skeletons were found.

At the time, Nikopol was a site of metal ore mines Adolf Hitler was determined to hold on to.

However, after sustaining a series of attacks launched by Soviet troops led by Marshal Rodion Malinovsky during the last months of 1943, German soldiers were eventually abandoned the town in February 1944.

The human remains may be mostly of Wehrmacht troops, Oleksii Kokot, an expert on German military relics in Ukraine, said.

The commentator explained the Soviet fallen were buried, while “dead German soldiers were just left lying in the fields … therefore, these could really be German soldiers”.

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Explaining the extent of the bloodshed during the Battle of the Dnipro, Andrii Solonets, a historian at the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War, told the Guardian: “The losses of Soviet troops ranged from 30,000 to 60,000 people. The losses of German and Romanian troops were up to 20,000 people.

“So in theory this video showing the helmet and skull could be linked to those events.”

Today, Nikopol – located on the right bank of the river – is a frontline town held by Ukrainian forces.

Following the liberation of the city of Kherson and other areas of the Kherson Oblast, the region where the dam is located, Russia withdrew on the left bank of the Dnipro in November 2022.

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The dam, built in 1956, fell into Russian hands in early 2022 and was still held by Moscow’s troops when it burst.

In the immediate aftermath of the humanitarian and environmental disaster, Kyiv accused Moscow of mining the dam, while Russia initially claimed to have nothing to do with the destruction of the reservoir, before accusing Ukraine of wrongdoing.

On June 9, Ukraine presented what it claimed was proof that Russia had destroyed the Kakhovka dam.

The evidence was a 90-second audio clip in which Russian saboteurs allegedly discussed the operation.

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