Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday said that Ukraine sabotaged the Kakhovka dam to distract attention from its faltering counteroffensive, and rejected Kyiv’s claim that Moscow had blown up the dam.
Blasts at a Soviet-era dam in the Russian controlled part of southern Ukraine on Tuesday unleashed floodwaters across the war zone.
The dam, 30 meters (yards) tall and 3.2 km (2 miles) long and which holds water equal to the Great Salt Lake in the US state of Utah, was built in 1956 on the Dnipro River as part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant.
It also supplies water to the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, and to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is also under Russian control.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of blowing up the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station from inside the facility, and said Russia must be held to account for a “terrorist attack.”
A Ukrainian military spokesperson said Russia’s aim was to prevent Ukrainian troops crossing the Dnipro River to attack Russian occupying forces.
Russian-installed officials gave conflicting accounts, some blaming Ukrainian shelling, others saying the dam on the Dnipro had burst on its own.
“Tonight at 02:50, Russian terrorists carried out an internal detonation of the structures of the Kakhovskaya HPP. About 80 settlements are in the zone of flooding,” Zelenskyy said after an emergency meeting of senior officials.
“We are doing everything to save people,” he said on the Telegram messaging app, adding that at the meeting “a set of international and security measures was agreed upon to hold Russia accountable for this terrorist attack.”
Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said on Twitter the move amounted to “a fundamentally new stage of Russian aggression.”
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned of an environmental threat which he said could result in “regional ecocide.”
Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern military command, described the destruction of the dam as “a hysterical reaction” to prevent Ukrainian troops attacking Russian forces on the opposite side of the Dnipro River.
Serhiy Naev, commander of the joint forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, was quoted by state news agency Ukrinform as saying flooding caused by the dam’s destruction “should not prevent our advance in those directions where there may be spillage of water.”