- An explosion has destroyed the dam of the hydroelectric power plant in New Kakhovka, Ukraine, resulting in partial flooding of the area and the declaration of a state of emergency by Russian authorities imposed in the region.
- Ukraine attributes the destruction of the plant to an "internal detonation" caused by Russian forces, regarding the incident as a "terrorist attack" and a "war crime."
- Some 900 people have been evacuated from the flooded areas and Russian authorities claim responsibility lies with the Ukrainian regime, denying any involvement.
- The damaged dam may be operational again in about four days, but the damage to the hydroelectric plant is irreparable, according to Ukrainian company Ukrhidroenergo.
The Russian-imposed authorities in New Kakhovka, Ukraine, declared a state of emergency on Tuesday (06) after the upper structure of the dam at its hydroelectric plant broke and partially flooded the area.
The measure went into effect at 12pm local time, according to the pro-Russian mayor of New Kakhovka, Vladimir Leontiev.
The plant is under Russian control and located on the Dnieper River, whose eastern bank is under occupation by Moscow forces, while on the other side of the infrastructure begins the territory under Ukrainian control.
According to emergency services in the area, about 600 houses have already been flooded in the district.
The water level near New Kakhovka, which has been occupied by Russia for more than 15 months, is currently at more than ten meters, according to Leontiev.
"The water rose, it keeps rising (...) The city is flooding, the Dnieper avenue is already under water. This means that the water has risen more than ten meters," reported the city mayor.
According to Leontiev, the water can rise a maximum of 12.5 meters in the area of the hydroelectric power plant.
The dam breach, produced, according to Russia, by a Ukrainian Alder multiple missile launcher attack and, according to Kiev, by an explosion caused inside the hydroelectric plant, affects 14 towns where 22,000 people live, according to the chairman of the Moscow-imposed government in the Kherson region, Andrei Alekseenko.
The Kakhovka hydroelectric plant, Ukraine's fifth largest, has a capacity of 334.8 megawatts (for comparison, the Itaipu hydroelectric plant has a capacity of 14 gigawatts). Its reservoir, built in the 1950s, contained 18 million cubic meters of water before Tuesday's disaster (Itaipu's reservoir contains 29 billion cubic meters).
Zelensky speaks of "internal detonation"
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky attributed the destruction of the hydroelectric plant to an "internal detonation" caused by Russian forces.
"This evening at 2:50 a.m. local time (8:50 p.m. Monday in Brasília), Russian terrorists caused the internal detonation of the structures of the New Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant," Zelensky said on his Telegram account after an urgent meeting with his Security Council to assess the situation.
During the meeting, the Ukrainian head of state ordered the evacuation of the areas most at risk of flooding, where some 80 towns are located.
Zelensky also called for drinking water to be provided "to all towns and villages" that depended on the destroyed dam.
"We do everything we can to save people. All the services, the army, the government, the president's office are involved," stressed Zelensky, who promised to take "a series of international and security measures to make Russia pay for its responsibilities" in what he described as a "terrorist attack."
For her part, Ukrainian presidential aide Daria Zavirna said on her Telegram account that Russia "planned the explosion of the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant a long time ago."
Zarivna said that Russian occupation authorities raised the water level to the maximum to intensify flooding resulting from the dam explosion.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the explosion is a "war crime" and is the "biggest man-made disaster" in Europe in decades.
"Russia destroyed the Kakhovka dam, causing probably the biggest man-made technological disaster in Europe in decades and endangering the lives of thousands of civilians. This is a terrible war crime," Kuleba wrote on his Twitter account.
"The only way to stop Russia, the biggest terrorist of the 21st century, is to expel it from Ukraine," the Ukrainian foreign portfolio holder added.
Before Kuleba spoke out about the incident, the Ukrainian state-owned hydroelectric company, Ukrhidroenergo, reported that the damage at the Nova Kakhovka power plant is "irreparable" and was caused by "a detonation in the engine room from the inside."
"As a result of the detonation of the engine room from the inside, the Kakhovka hydropower plant has been completely destroyed. The plant cannot be repaired," the company's official statement said.
Ukrhidroenergo adds, however, that the dam damaged in the explosion could "be operational" again within "four days."
About 900 people have been evacuated
Some 900 people have been evacuated from flooded areas of the city, Russian-imposed authorities in the region reported Tuesday.
"In New Kakhovka, floods have reached the administrative headquarters and the water level continues to rise. So far, about 900 people have been evacuated," a representative of the city's emergency services reported, quoted by the Russian "Interfax" news agency.
According to the latest data from the emergency services, the water level rose 12 meters in New Kakhovka, 11.2 meters in the town of Dnipriani and 7.3 meters in Korsunka.
Dnipriani and Korsunka - the latter completely submerged - are located downstream immediately after Nova Kakhovka.
Kremlin denies the charges
The Kremlin has denied Ukraine's accusations that Russia is behind the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam and assured that it is "deliberate sabotage" by Kiev.
"We categorically deny these accusations. It is a deliberate, planned and organized sabotage on the orders of the Kiev regime," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in his daily telephone press conference.
Peskov added that all responsibility for the consequences of the disaster now lies on the Ukrainian side.
The Kremlin spokesman linked the dam explosion to the Ukrainian counteroffensive and said that Kiev took this step because it "does not achieve its objectives" on the battlefield.
"Its offensive operations are sinking," he declared.
At the same time, Peskov redirected to Russia's Defense Ministry a question about the impact of what happened on Russia's war campaign.
This is because the hydroelectric power plant dam is of great importance not only for its energy capabilities, but also because it connects the right and left banks of the Dnieper River, which has become the front line between the Russian and Ukrainian Armies.
According to Peskov, one of the goals of the attack was to leave the Crimean peninsula without water, which, however, has enough reserves in its reservoirs for the moment.