Sunday, October 1

Ukraine accuses Russia of destroying major dam

A vast dam on the front lines of the war in southern Ukraine has been destroyed, threatening hundreds of thousands of residents as well as a nearby nuclear plant.

Water was surging through the critical Kakhovka dam Tuesday, according to video verified by NBC News and local officials, risking massive flooding that immediately sparked evacuations from nearby areas and an emergency meeting in Kyiv.

Ukraine accused Russian forces of blowing up the dam, which sits in a Russian-controlled area of ​​the front-line Kherson region. Russian news agencies said the dam had been destroyed in shelling, while a senior Russian-installed official said it was a terrorist attack, implying an attack by Ukraine.

NBC News has not verified the claims of either side.

It comes a day after Kyiv’s forces appeared to launch a new series of attacks across the front lines in the south and the east, fueling speculation that their long-awaited counteroffensive may have begun.

Throughout the war both sides have accused each other of targeting the dam with attacks, while Kyiv has voiced fears that Moscow would destroy the dam to cause a flood. Experts have speculated that the dam’s destruction could have a catastrophic impact on local communities and the environment.

A satellite image courtesy of Maxar Technologies shows the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine last month, before it was destroyed.AFP – Getty Images

The Soviet-era dam, 30 yards tall and 2 miles long, was built in 1956 on the river as part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant. It holds water equal to the Great Salt Lake in the US state of Utah.

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Water from the reservoir supplies the plant, much of the surrounding region, including the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, and Russian-occupied Crimea.

Ukrainian officials urged residents of 10 villages and parts of the city of Kherson to gather essential documents and pets, turn off appliances and leave while cautioning against possible disinformation.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pointed the finger at “Russian terrorists.” He convened an emergency meeting of the country’s defense and security councils.

Zelenskyy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the destruction of the dam was a “carefully planned act of terrorism.”

“The terrorists’ goal is obvious — to create obstacles for the offensive actions of the armed forces,” Podolyak told NBC News.

The head of the president’s office, Andriy Yermak, called it “the biggest man-made disaster in the world in recent decades.”

Ukrainian officials warned that water would reach critical levels within hours and urged people on both sides of the Dnipro River to evacuate.

Ukraine’s state energy company, Enerhoatom, said the attack on the dam could have “negative consequences” for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, but the situation was still under control.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was monitoring the situation and there was no immediate nuclear safety risk at plant.

The Kherson region was annexed by the Kremlin last year, but it is only partially controlled by Moscow’s forces after a previous Ukrainian offensive recaptured the regional capital of the same name.

It has long been speculated that Ukraine will renew its push to drive Russian troops from the area, which is bisected by the crucial Dnipro River, and look to threaten the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula farther south.

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This is a developing news story; please check back for updates.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed.

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