Dam near Kherson breached; evacuations underway as Russia, Ukraine play blame game

Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of an intentional attack by the other's forces on a major Soviet-era dam in the Russian controlled part of southern Ukraine. Footage on social media reportedly showed it was breached today, unleashing floodwaters across the war zone. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy blamed Russia for the damage.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy blamed Russia for the damage. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@Maxar

The dam reservoir at the Kakhovka hydropower plant in Southern Ukraine also supplies cooling water to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said there was no immediate nuclear safety risk at the plant due to the dam failure but that it was monitoring the situation closely.

Both sides have repeatedly accused each of planning to breach the dam using explosives, which would flood much of the area downstream and would likely cause major destruction around Kherson. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blamed Russia for the damage.

"The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam only confirms for the whole world that they must be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land," Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Russian-installed officials in Kherson said Ukraine struck the dam at 2300 GMT several times, destroying the hydraulic valves of the hydroelectric power station but said the dam was not totally destroyed.

The head of Ukraine's presidential administration stated the blast was an "ecocide" committed by Russian forces, while Russia has allegedly blamed Ukraine for the incident.

"Water will reach critical levels in five hours," regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin, said in a video on his Telegram channel.

Ten villages on the western bank of the Dnipro and a part of the city of Kherson face the risk of flooding and people were urged to prepare for evacuation.

It is not clear yet how the flood waters would affect Ukraine's long-planned counter-offensive against Russian forces who are dug in across southern and eastern Ukraine.

In 2022, US satellite imagery company Maxar had released images which showed damage to the dam and several bridges that crossed the Dnipro river near Kherson after Russia abandoned the city.

"Satellite images this morning … reveal significant new damage to several bridges and the Nova Kakhovka dam in the aftermath of the Russian retreat from Kherson across the Dnipro river," Maxar had said in a statement.