Ukraine accuses Russian forces of blowing up a major dam and hydroelectric power station in southern Ukraine that they control, threatening a catastrophic flood that could displace hundreds of thousands of people, and has ordered riverside residents to evacuate.
The Russian news agency Tass quoted an unnamed Russian government official as saying that the dam had "collapsed" due to damage.
The dam's failure could release 18 million cubic meters of water and inundate Kherson and dozens of other areas inhabited by hundreds of thousands of people, Ukrainian authorities have previously warned. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy convened a crisis meeting to address the situation.
The nearby nuclear power facility in Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia could also be affected. Its cooling systems receive water from the Kakhovka reservoir, contained by a dam. On Twitter, the International Atomic Energy Association stated there was "no immediate nuclear safety risk at (the) plant."
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry posted on Telegram that the Kakhovka dam had been blown up and urged residents of 10 villages on the river's right bank and portions of the city of Kherson downriver to evacuate with their pets, important documents, and appliances turned off, while warning of possible disinformation.
Footage from what appeared to be a surveillance camera overlooking the dam, which was circulating on social media, purportedly depicted a flash, detonation, and dam breach.
The chief of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, Oleksandr Prokudin, stated in a video posted to Telegram shortly before 7 a.m. (local time) that "the Russian army has committed yet another act of terror" and that water levels will reach "critical levels" within five hours.
Oleksiy Danilov, the council's secretary, stated on Twitter that Zelenskyy initiated an emergency meeting of the country's security and defense council in response to the dam detonation.
Ukraine and Russia have previously accused one another of launching attacks against the dam, and in October of last year, Zelenskyy predicted that Russia would dismantle the dam to cause a flood.
Authorities, experts, and locals have been concerned about water movements through and over the Kakhovka dam for months.
After heavy rainfall and snowmelt, water levels surpassed normal levels by mid-May, flooding adjacent villages. Images from satellites revealed water flowing over damaged sluice gates.
Five of the six dams along the Dnipro River, which flows from Ukraine's northern border with Belarus to the Black Sea and is vital to the country's drinking water and power supply, are under Ukrainian control. Russian forces maintain control over the Kakhovka dam, the most downstream dam in the Kherson region.