Moscow/Kyiv, June 6 (EFE).- A dam on the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine was damaged on Tuesday, releasing floodwaters into the Russian-occupied part of the region.
The explosion has raised fears of widespread flooding in the region, home to millions of people on either side of the river.
The Ukrainian military said the Soviet-era Kakhovka dam, 30 km east of Kherson city, was blown up by Russian forces.
The Russian-backed administration in the region said Ukrainian forces attacked it.
The southern command of Ukraine’s Armed Forces alleged that the Russians blasted the dam, which forms part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant (HPP).
“The Kakhovka HPP was blown up by the Russian occupying forces. The scale of the destruction, the speed and volume of water, the probable areas of flooding are currently being established,” the military said.
Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian presidential chief of staff, said the Russians had committed “ecocide” by destroying the dam.
“The destruction of the (dam) is the biggest man-made disaster in the world in recent decades, which negatively affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the years to come,” Yermak said.
He said the “insane goal of stopping” the Ukrainian forces and “avoiding defeat and disgrace” was driving the “Kremlin criminals.” “They are willing to do anything to raise the stakes in this war. Today’s Russia is a global threat.”
Ukrainian regional military head Oleksandr Prokudin said the evacuation of residents at risk of flooding had begun.
Prokudin warned that the floodwaters would reach a critical level before the evening on Tuesday.
He addressed the residents of the occupied left bank of the river, urging them to make every effort to save their lives.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called an urgent security meeting over the emerging dangerous situation.
Vladimir Leontyev, the administrative head of the Russia-controlled region, said the extent of the destruction at the power plant was “very serious and restoring it will be comparable to building it from scratch.”
Leontiev said the attacks on the power plant were a “serious act of terrorism.”
“There were several hits at two o’clock in the morning in the upper part of the hydroelectric power plant, where the flashboards are located, where the valves are, and it was destroyed,” Leontyev said.
“Right now one cannot tell that it will be very easy to restore it. Apparently, it will require the same construction of the Kakhovka HPP as in 1950-1956,” Leontyev a local TV channel.
He told Sputnik news that the water level had risen 2.5 meters downstream, adding that emergency services were at the scene.
Leontyev said there was no need yet to evacuate the population, but the local authorities had prepared in case they need to rescue people.
According to the mayor, at least 300 homes could be affected by the partial destruction of the power plant.
The Sputnik news said Ukrainian forces had been targeting the dam over the past year, as a part of strikes against Russian civilian infrastructure.
The power plant damage may cause problems in water supplies for the Russian-occupied Crimea.
“The only threat is that for the moment we will have problems with the water supply to Crimea,” Leontyev said.
But Ukraine said the floodwater would affect the irrigation systems in the area and affect food production.
Yermak said it was “a blow to global food security.” EFE