Ukraine blamed Russia on Tuesday for destroying a major dam on the Dnipro River, unleashing severe flooding and prompting evacuations.
Kyiv claims Russian forces blew up the Nova Kakhovka dam from inside the structure, which supplies water to the Crimean peninsula and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant for its cooling system. About 80 settlements lie in the flood zone, according to Ukraine.
“Russian terrorists,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted Tuesday morning. “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.”
“Not a single meter should be left to them, because they use every meter for terror,” he added. “It’s only Ukraine’s victory that will return security. And this victory will come. The terrorists will not be able to stop Ukraine with water, missiles or anything else.”
The head of Ukraine’s nuclear operator, Energoatom, said the situation at the Zaporizhzhia was not critical, given that it has access to a separate cooling pond.
The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) similarly said Tuesday there was “no immediate risk to the safety of the plant.” The reservoir, which is reportedly dropping by about 2 inches per hour, can continue to supply the plant for a few days, he added.
The attack on the dam comes as Ukraine appears to have launched its long-awaited counteroffensive against Russian forces.