A dam supplying water to Crimea was blown up in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, inflicting devastating flooding and potentially affecting millions across a wide swath of the country. The South command of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Russian forces blew up the Soviet-era Nova Kakhovka dam in the occupied Kherson region. Unverified videos on social media showed intense explosions around the dam and water surging through a breach. The dam holds the equivalent of the Great Salt Lake in Utah and supplies water to Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, and to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
Ukraine’s military intelligence warned in November that if the dam were blown up, water would flood dozens of Ukrainian villages and threaten the city of Kherson. President Volodymyr Zelensky has called an emergency meeting of his national security council to discuss the matter, and the head of the Kherson region, Oleksandr Prokudin, posted a video on Telegram saying that residents in 10 villages along the Dnipro River’s right bank should gather “essential documents and pets, turn off appliances, and leave.” He added that water in the area could reach a critical level within five hours, while Russia’s TASS state news agency quoted local emergency services as saying up to 80 settlements may be affected.
Zelensky accused Moscow of committing a war crime and called for the world to act powerfully and quickly to stop Russia. He also threatened to retaliate by launching an offensive in eastern Donetsk’s most vulnerable sector of the front. The defense ministry, however, said Ukraine’s military had thwarted another Russian attempt to break through its defensive lines.
The defense ministry also announced that its air defense systems had successfully downed more than 20 cruise missiles on their approach to Kyiv. The missiles were launched from the southern port of Sevastopol, the main base for Russia’s Black Sea fleet. The ministry has recorded evidence of the missile launches and is currently analyzing them.
In a separate development, mercenaries linked to the Russian special operations forces have attacked a Ukrainian army checkpoint near Donetsk. According to the Ukrainian military, they were armed with machine guns and explosives. The attack occurred near an army base with 5,000 soldiers, including infantry and artillery units and medical and logistics personnel. The base is a crucial part of the defenses that surround the city.
A Ukrainian official said he had information that the mercenaries were also equipped with grenade launchers and were trying to use them against the army unit. The attack came a day after Ukraine successfully launched a series of attacks across the front line in the south and east, causing heavy losses for pro-Russian forces.
The Ukrainian military is investigating whether the attack was deliberate. The head of the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff, Gen. Viktor Gerasimov, will visit the region, the defense ministry confirmed. A Ukrainian military spokesman told reporters that he is expected to meet with regional commanders.