A huge dam in the Russian-controlled area of southern Ukraine has been destroyed, unleashing a flood of water.
Ukraine’s military has accused Russia of blowing up the dam, while Russian officials have blamed the Ukrainians.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said there was no immediate nuclear safety risk but it was monitoring the situation.
However, European Union chief, Charles Michel on Tuesday expressed shock at the attack on Ukraine’s Nova Kakhovka dam and pledged to hold Russia accountable for the “war crime” of destroying civilian infrastructure.
“Shocked by the unprecedented attack of the Nova Kakhovka dam. The destruction of civilian infrastructure clearly qualifies as a war crime — and we will hold Russia and its proxies accountable,” European Council chief Michel wrote on social media.
People are currently being evacuated from communities in the surrounding areas, with fears that any flooding could be catastrophic.
The Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant is in the city of Nova Kakhovka in Ukraine’s Kherson region, which is currently under Russian occupation.
It was built in the Soviet era and is one of six dams that sits along the Dnipro River, which stretches all the way from the very north of the country into the sea in the south.
It’s huge and holds water equal to the Great Salt Lake in the US state of Utah, according to Reuters.
It’s not yet clear what caused the breach in the dam, but Ukraine’s military has accused Russia of deliberately blowing it up. This seems plausible, as Moscow may have feared that Ukrainian forces would use the road over the dam to get troops across the river into Russian-held territory, as part of a counter-offensive.
Meanwhile, Russian-installed officials have blamed Ukraine for striking the dam, but they say only the plant’s upper was destroyed by shelling – not the dam itself.
Neither Ukraine’s or Russia’s claims have been verified by the BBC
The dam is very important and serves a number of purposes.
It holds back a vast reservoir that supplies water for a host of communities upstream, which means it could affect people’s supplies there.
It also provides cooling water to the nuclear power station at Zaporizhzhia, around 100 miles upstream, which is under Russian control and relies on the reservoir.