Coated with rust and caramel, it lies among the sands on the banks of the Dnieper, rocked by a slight swell. At first glance, it did not look like an FAP-50 bomb from a German plane from World War II, said Ruslan Anikalov, the chief of the bomb squad in the city of Zaporizhia (southern Ukraine) who came to remove it. “There is no doubt,” he said after confirming what the weapons were. To transport the wounded, they resort to a military stretcher like the one used to remove the wounded from the battle fronts. The two men, who are carrying the device, which weighs about 40 kilograms, must stop on the way to the truck in which they have loaded it. On the same beach, a hundred meters away, the family does not take their eyes off the fishing rod. A little inside, a group of people are waiting for the charcoal flame to go out before they start putting the meat on the grill.
Destruction of the Nova Kajovka Dam on 6 June, about 200 kilometers from the city of Zaporizhia, not only dozens of people were killed. Last Thursday, Interior Minister Igor Klimenko announced that the death toll was only 29 in the Ukrainian-controlled region. The explosion of this infrastructure also lowered the water level, so much so that dozens of bombs like the FAP-50 that had been hidden since that armed conflict, which took place between 1939 and 1945, turned up. Throughout these weeks, Zaporizhia’s security forces received “an average of two or three warnings each day from citizens who come across these weapons while hiking or fishing on the beach.” It’s not a matter of touching them, he adds, because they’re potentially dangerous, though he admits it’s hard for them to go off without being handled. In fact, they are all destined to explode and be destroyed.
After World War II, those bombs stayed there without exploding underwater. Think of 1943 and 1944, without the equipment to locate them, divers… when everything was destroyed,” says historian Svetlana Volodymorevna, an employee of the Zaporizhia Regional Museum. “This is a problem that has been submerged for all these years,” Volodimorivna explains. 3 Destroy everything at once. At that time it was normal for both our ranks and the Germans to fire artillery shells or bombs from the air that fell but did not explode.”
About twenty kilometers from Zaporizhia, at another point of the river where another bomb was found, these days also appeared human bones that the emergency services – show photos of EL PAÍS – do not know if they belong to soldiers of the Soviet or Nazi army who fought in the area. It is easy to check the effects of low water in the area. The river has a kind of new shore as it runs through the city which has become a magnet for residents. It is not a very nice place because instead of sand the ground is made up of clay and some large drainage pipes can be seen. Next to them, a kid’s library card that expired a decade ago.
“I have never seen the river in such a terrible state,” laments Grigory Markov, 76, as he surveys the area with his grandson in surprise. “I see that is it Brothers [en referencia a los rusos] And I must be offended, insulted and hurt. People used to come here to relax, to fish, to look at what it has become, and the rocks that stick out there, impeding the ability to move around,” he comments, turning around his waist contemplating the large chunk of land that appears in the air.
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As part of that battle that Zaporizhia fought during World War II, local forces, In an action similar to what happened in Nova Kajovka today, they blew up the great dam built on the Dnieper River. Tens of thousands of people, up to 100,000, according to some sources, died in that operation, which was carried out on August 18, 1941. According to Svetlana Volodymorevna, “everything was flooded, including part of the ammunition. Many projectiles were sunk after the bombing of Dnieper, ”as the hydroelectric power station is known today, the largest in Ukraine and one of the largest in Europe.
It was Joseph Stalin who called on his secret agents from the NKDV – later the KGB – to blow up the dam to stop the advance of the Nazis. There was an order from Stalin to destroy everything, as he himself wrote at the time, whether it be bread stores or factories. Everything had to be destroyed. That was the policy of a psychopath like himself. There is a lot of evidence of this in the history of Russia for which no human explanation can be found, ”emphasizes the expert.
The recent destruction of Nova Kakhovka was not as fatal as it was 82 years ago. But it seems that the current one too Moved dangerously placing explosives in minefields In an area where the Dnieper River separates the positions of the two armies. In fact, the facilities of the dam and the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric station were in the hands of the invading forces. Available data indicates that the destruction was caused by explosives planted by the Russians.
In the headquarters of the Zaporizhia Regional Museum, they do not care about the fate of the finds that war archeology has uncovered these days due to the descent of the Dnieper River. They are more interested in the legacy of its permanent collection. In fact, a large part of the pieces have not been exhibited for months, as they were removed and moved to safe places for fear of the city being occupied by the Russians, explains Irina Anatolyevna, an employee of the gallery.
It wouldn’t be the first time that invaders attacked museums and galleries or simply destroyed them. As of the end of 2022, more than 1,100 items of Ukraine’s cultural heritage — architecture, museums, schools, universities or cultural centers — have been damaged and more than 400 destroyed, according to the Culture Ministry. The result of the occupation in Kherson was, among many other tragedies, The two great museums in this southern city were ransacked Which was liberated by the local army last November.
Irina Anatolyevna, however, unlocks a room that presents Ukraine’s history from its independence from the Soviet Union, in 1991, to today, almost verbatim. It is surprising to see a more than lively space, just a few weeks ago, a part of the S-300 missile fired by the Russians last May over the town of Vilnyansk, on the outskirts of the regional capital. “The kids find it funny because it looks like a washing machine,” says the museum worker.
There is also a tribute to those who fell during the current Russian invasion or during the Maidan Revolution in 2014, the arms interspersed with paintings by local artists. A few meters from the surface of the earth are the remains of an Iranian-made drone launched on February 10 against the Dnieper hydroelectric power facilities. And Anatolyevna points to the message the Russians left, scribbled in black pen next to one of the wings of the device: “Look how ironic it is.”
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