A dam in southern Ukraine that holds the same amount of water as the Great Salt Lake in Utah was destroyed early Tuesday morning, forcing the evacuation of over 15,000 residents downstream of the Kakhovka dam.
The dam was built nearly seven decades ago as part of a hydroelectric power plant on the Dnipro River. Officials warned that rising water levels would hit a critical point in just a few hours.
Russia and Ukraine were quick to blame each other for the destruction of the dam. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took to Twitter to lay the blame on “Russian terrorists,” claiming that their actions only confirm the need to expel them from Ukrainian land. Russian officials, however, suggested that it was a Ukrainian terrorist attack.
Russian terrorists. 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. It’s only… pic.twitter.com/ErBog1gRhH
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) June 6, 2023
Experts have voiced concerns about the catastrophic effects of the dam’s demolition on local communities, irrigation, and transportation. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been monitoring the nearby Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which relies on the reservoir for cooling water. While the IAEA has stated that there is currently no immediate nuclear safety risk at the plant, the Times notes that the six reactors at the facility still require water to keep the radioactive fuel inside the reactor cores cool.
Former Ukrainian Minister of Energy, Ivan Plachkov, told the Times that the situation is very dangerous. As tensions between Russia and Ukraine continue to escalate, the destruction of the Kakhovka dam represents yet another flashpoint in the ongoing conflict.