The Kremlin, in turn, said Ukraine was responsible for the disaster as water surged through the Kakhovka dam in a Russian-controlled area of the Kherson region.
NBC News has not verified the claims of either side.
Kakhovka dam crisis: The latest updates
- At least 16,000 people had been forced from their homes hours after a vast Ukrainian dam was damaged, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said today.
- The U.S. government has intelligence that is leaning toward Russia as the culprit of the attack, according to two U.S. officials and one Western official.
- Ukrainian authorities have expressed fears that the collapse could threaten the country's supply of drinking water. The country has allocated more than $60 million to address the issue.
Ukraine's state energy company said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe, was not at immediate risk, but added that the level of the water it uses to cool its turbines is dropping.
Ukraine allocates over $60 million to restore drinking water following dam destruction
Ukraine has allocated more than $60 million to address the drinking water issue after from the Kakhovka dam destruction, according to Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
More than $40 million, or 1.5 Ukranian hryvnia (UAH), was set aside to build two main water pipelines to provide drinking water to the cities of Kryvyi Rih, Nikopol, and Marhanets near the Dnieper River, Shmyhal said.
Additionally, $22.8 million (846 million UAH) was granted to Kherson, Zaporizhzhya and Dnipropetrovsk along the Dnieper and Mykolaiv near the Black Sea to address drinking water needs.
Zelenskyy calls dam blast an 'ecological bomb of mass destruction'
In a Telegram message late Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked rescuers, soldiers and regional governors who rushed into action after the Kakhovka dam was destroyed.
"The authorities at all levels are doing everything to save people and provide drinking water to those who used to receive it from the Kakhovka Reservoir," Zelenskyy said.
He described the dam explosion as a "Russian terrorist attack" and an "ecological bomb of mass destruction." Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime has denied involvement in the incident.
Senior NATO official: Russian actors would stand to benefit from dam destruction
Although it's too early to determine who was responsible for the Kakhovka dam destruction, Russia would stand to benefit from it as opposed to Ukraine, a senior NATO official told NBC News.
The official, who spoke to NBC News on Tuesday on condition of anonymity, also said the break doesn’t seem to be a result of an airstrike.
"It’s just outrageous," the official said. "It’s just another outrageous attack."
State Dept. says U.S. is still assessing situation at dam
The Biden administration is still evaluating what occurred at the dam in Ukraine, State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said Tuesday.
"As our colleagues at the White House said, we have seen reports that Russia was responsible for the explosion at the dam, which Russian forces took illegally last year, and we have been continuing to monitor. We can’t say conclusively what happened at this point," Patel told reporters at the daily press briefing in Washington.
Patel echoed an earlier White House message and did not definitively say that Russia is responsible for what occurred, adding: "It was in fact Russia that started this war, was Russia that was occupying this area, and it was Russia that was in control of the dam."
Patel said he couldn't say that the breach of the dam was an "explosion" but said U.S. officials are aware of those reports.
Damaged dam upends lives in Kherson
German chancellor releases message of support for Ukraine
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz released a message of support for Ukraine in light of the Kakhovka dam destruction Tuesday.
"The destruction of the #Kachowka dam with the terrible consequences shows a new dimension," he tweeted. "It fits into the way Russia is ruthlessly waging war and joins the many crimes in #Ukraine."
"We support Ukraine for as long as necessary," Scholz said.
U.S. can't 'say conclusively' who was responsible for dam attack, NSC spokesman says
President Joe Biden’s administration “cannot say conclusively” who was responsible for the massive breach at the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
“We’re doing the best we can to assess” reports that Russia was the culprit, Kirby told reporters in the White House briefing room.
However, two U.S. officials and one Western official earlier told NBC News that the U.S. has intelligence that is leaning toward Russia as the perpetrator of the attack. U.S. officials were working to declassify some of the intelligence and share it as early as Tuesday afternoon.
Kirby warned that the flooding triggered by the breach could be catastrophic for local communities and the environment. He added that “the destruction could have a devastating impact on Ukraine’s energy security” in part because the dam is near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Dam destruction a 'massive disaster,' expert warns
An immense wall of water engulfing southern Ukraine looks set to have profound consequences for the war and the region itself.
But the Kakhovka dam was so crucial — providing power and drinking water for entire cities and coolant for a nearby nuclear plant — that it may take some time for the scale of the damage wrought by the vast structure’s collapse to become clear.
“It’s a massive disaster,” said Henrik Ölander-Hjalmarsson, CEO and founding partner of the Swedish hydrological modeling company Dämningsverket AB.
Last fall he made a model of what would happen if this dam burst — a wave upward of 12 feet rushing down the river — but this damage “looks much worse” than that, he said, because water levels in the reservoir were already high before Tuesday’s destruction.
Up to 70 towns and cities will be flooded due to dam break, Zelenskyy says
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said "35 to 70 towns will be flooded" along the Dnieper River after the explosion at a major dam.
In addition, there could be problems accessing clean drinking water, Zelenskyy said at a briefing.
"We understand that there will be big problems regarding the delivery of drinking water," he said. "There will be big problems with drinking water even where there is no flooding. In the whole region."
U.S. declassifying intelligence pointing to Russia as perpetrator of dam attack, sources say
The United States government has intelligence that is leaning toward Russia as the culprit of the attack on the dam in Ukraine, according to two U.S. officials and one Western official.
President Joe Biden’s administration was working to declassify some of the intelligence and share it as early as Tuesday afternoon.
The motive behind the explosion was still being assessed, but the collapse appears likely to make it more difficult for Ukrainian forces to conduct a river crossing and also presents a difficult humanitarian challenge, the Western official said.
Destruction of dam 'another blow to the well-being of children of Ukraine,' UNICEF says
The head of the United Nations Children's Fund on Tuesday called the destruction of the Kakhovka dam “another blow to the well-being of children of Ukraine.”
“The damage and subsequent flooding has caused thousands of children to flee their homes, and left them without access to safe water and power,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement. “The rules of war are clear. Children and their essential services and infrastructure must be protected at all times.”
UNICEF teams responded to the area and have provided water and sanitation supplies as well support for children at dedicated centers at transit locations.
Wheat prices rise amid worries dam collapse could disrupt global supplies
The prices of wheat and corn rose Tuesday after the explosion of the critical Kakhovka dam, pointing to fears that the incident could disrupt the global agricultural supply chain.
The dam burst near sprawling agricultural fields in southern Ukraine.
The price of wheat went up 2.4%, to $6.39 a bushel, in early trading Tuesday at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The price of corn rose more than 1%, to $6.04 a bushel, while oats gained 0.73%, or $3.46 per unit, according to The Associated Press.
Evacuation underway in Kherson downriver from devastated dam
At least 16,000 people have fled their homes, U.N. chief says
At least 16,000 people had been forced from their homes hours after a vast Ukrainian dam was damaged, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said today.
The U.N. has also seen “environmental devastation” in towns and villages along the Dnieper River, including flooding, destruction of newly planted crops and threats to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, he told reporters.
The world body is providing support to the Ukrainian government in the form of drinking water, water purification tablets and “other critical assistance,” Guterres added.
Before and after images of the devastated dam
Satellite images of the Kakhovka dam Sunday and Monday.
Russians stand to gain more than Ukrainians do, a senior NATO official says
The Russians stood to benefit more from the destruction of the dam than the Ukrainians do, according to a senior NATO official.
“Rebuilding costs are going to be substantial,” according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the conflict. “The bill here is going to be huge.”
It was “too early to make any kind of meaningful assessment or attribution” about the incident, the official said, calling it “outrageous.”
Satellite images show damage to Kakhovka dam
Ukrainian emergency services rescue 1,300 from rising waters
Ukrainian police said they had rescued more than a thousand people from flooded areas of the Kherson region by this afternoon, while sharing a video of officers reaching stranded people in towns and cities via boats.
Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a Telegram post that by 3 p.m. local time (8 a.m. ET), about 1,300 people had been rescued by the State Emergency Service, the national police force and volunteers.
Separately, Internal Affairs Minister Ihor Klymenko said on Ukrainian television: "We expect that the water level will be increasing within next 24 hours, so all departments will work around the clock. Currently, 24 settlements in Ukraine have been flooded."
Floodwaters reach the community center in Novaya Kakhovka
Widespread flooding in Kherson seen in latest images
New images continue to underline the extent of the flooding in the Kherson region today, following the attack on the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam. Entire structures are underwater and in places only the tops of trees are still visible.
Police and other emergency services are busy rescuing those trapped or unable to leave.
Zelenskyy says Ukraine attacking dam is 'physically impossible'
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has responded to Russia's claims that Kyiv was behind the dam's detonation by saying it would have been "physically impossible" for his forces to cause that much damage by shelling from a distance.
In a statement, he said the dam was "mined by Russian occupiers" who have controlled it for more than a year and "blew it up" today.
Zelenskyy accused Russia of "detonating a bomb of mass environmental destruction" and called it "the largest man-made environmental disaster in Europe in decades."
Red Cross warns of 'dire humanitarian situation' after dam breach
The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned that tens of thousands of people are in “a dire humanitarian situation” following the damage to the dam in southern Ukraine.
Ariane Bauer, the ICRC’s regional director for Eurasia, said in a statement that the damage to the Kakhovka dam posed “a significant threat to civilians, their homes, and livelihoods.”
She said that damage to such critical infrastructure “can plunge entire communities into despair and devastate civilian lives.”
Video shows Ukrainian police officer rescuing dog from floodwaters
A Ukrainian police officer rescued a dog from rising floodwaters in Kherson today after the Kakhovka dam was breached.
The video was posted by the National Police of Ukraine on its Telegram official account and verified by NBC News.
The officer approached the dog carefully and tried to pull it out of the water. "Every life is important to us," the video description reads.
Ukrainian Defense Ministry warns about mine threat amid flooding
Ukraine's Defense Ministry has warned locals in the vicinity of the Kakhovka dam breach about increased danger from land mines, which could be dislodged and moved.
"Enemy mine barriers are underwater and can be washed away by currents," the ministry warned today in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.
'Russia has turned water into a weapon,' Estonian prime minister says
Russia has turned water into a weapon, according to Kaja Kallas, the prime minister of the Baltic state of Estonia, one of many European leaders to condemn Russia for its alleged destruction of Ukraine's Kakhovka dam.
Maia Sandu, president of Moldova, which neighbors Ukraine, said in a tweet that "Russia’s targeting of critical infrastructure amounts to war crimes," and pledged to assist Ukraine in responding to floods.
Russian officials have denied involvement in the dam’s destruction.
Ukraine has called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting
Ukraine has called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting over the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam.
"We consider the Russian Federation’s detonation of the dam ... as a terrorist act against Ukrainian critical infrastructure, which aims to cause as many civilian casualties and destruction as possible," Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Earlier, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs condemned the destruction of the dam, along with several Western leaders.
Kremlin spokesman says dam breach is Ukrainian 'sabotage'
The Kremlin called the destruction of the Kakhovka dam an act of “sabotage” by Ukraine today.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Kyiv was to blame for the incident and strongly denied any accusations of Russia’s involvement, the state news agency Tass reported.
He said President Vladimir Putin was monitoring the situation, according to the news agency.
Russian official blames Ukrainian 'missile attack' for dam destruction
The Russian proxy head of the Kherson region has accused Kyiv of sabotaging the Kakhovka dam to divert attention from its “terrible failures in the so-called ‘counteroffensive.’”
Vladimir Saldo said in a video posted on the Telegram messaging app today that “a missile attack” by Ukraine on the dam has led to “a large, but not critical amount of water flowing down the Dnipro river.”
But he said the situation was manageable and a major evacuation was not required.
“It will not prevent our military from defending the left bank,” Saldo said referring to the side of the river that Russia controls, while admitting that agricultural fields along the river bank have been washed away and civilian infrastructure has been disrupted.
Ukraine launches criminal investigation into Russian 'ecocide'
Ukrainian officials have launched a criminal investigation into the destruction of the Kakhovka dam as a possible case of "ecocide," the country's prosecutor general's office said today.
"A pre-trial investigation was started in criminal proceedings on the facts of ecocide and violation of the laws and customs of war," the prosecutor's office said in a Telegram post.
The prosecutor cited Article 441 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, which defines ecocide as the mass destruction of flora and fauna, poisoning of air or water resources and any other actions “that may cause an environmental disaster.”
Anyone convicted of ecocide in Ukraine could face a prison term of eight to 15 years.
Nova Kakhovka, a town next to the dam, is completely flooded
The town of Nova Kakhovka, just next to the breached dam, has been completely flooded, its Russian proxy mayor told Russian state media.
Vladimir Leontiev said on state Russia 1 channel that the town was completely flooded by rising water levels, hours after the incident.
Leontiev said earlier that the water in the town rose to more than 32 feet, and some people along the river bank were being evacuated.
Almost 900 evacuated from at-risk areas, Ukraine officials say
An evacuation operation has rescued almost 900 people from at-risk areas in the Kherson region, Ukrainian officials said.
Ukraine's Interior Ministry said at least 885 people had been evacuated from their homes since the dam's destruction as of 11 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET).
The ministry shared photos appearing to show residents being transported to safety.
The Kherson region was one of four annexed by the Kremlin last year, but it's now only partly controlled by Moscow’s forces after a Ukrainian counter-offensive recaptured the regional capital.
Russian official says no threat of flooding or water shortages in Crimea
There is no risk of flooding or drinking water shortages for the Crimean Peninsula, the Russian-installed head of the region, Sergei Aksenov, said after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam raised fears of devastating consequences for nearby areas, including the peninsula.
He said in a post on the Telegram messaging app that water levels in the North Crimean Canal, which feeds drinking water to the peninsula from the Kherson region, could drop as the result of the incident, but he said water reservoirs on the peninsula could handle the load.
"There is more than enough drinking water," Aksenov said.
Dam destruction is 'regional ecocide,' Ukraine's foreign minister says
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said the destruction of the dam represents "regional ecocide."
"Russia’s deliberate and long-planned destruction of the Kakhovka dam results in regional ecocide," he said in a tweet. "Entire ecosystems are being irreversibly harmed," he wrote.
Kuleba called on international organizations to condemn Russia and join Zelenskyy's peace formula, which includes a call for the prevention of ecocide and protection of environment.
There has been a push in recent years for "ecocide," which refers to the devastation and destruction of the environment, to be recognized in international criminal law.
Consequences for nuclear power plant 'minimal': Russian proxy
A Russian official has said the consequences of the dam breach for the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant will be “minimal” as it was built for the possibility of such emergencies.
"Such disasters were predicted during design and construction and were taken into account as a man-made factor,” Dmitry Vorona, the Russian proxy governor of the Zaporizhzhia region, told Russian state news agency Tass today.
Ukraine sounded the alarm about the threat posed to the nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, by dropping water levels in the reservoir essential for the safety systems of the plant. Ukraine’s state energy company, Energoatom, said the dam breach could have “negative consequences” for the plant, but the situation was under control.
New pictures show extensive flooding in the city of Kherson
What are Russian officials saying about what happened to the dam?
Russian officials are blaming Ukraine for shelling of the dam overnight.
Citing Russian proxy officials in the region and emergency services, state news agency Tass reported that shelling by the armed forces of Ukraine had destroyed the dam's valves, leading to "an uncontrolled discharge of water."
The Russian-installed chairman of the government of the Kherson region, Andrey Alekseenko, said there was no threat to human life but that 14 settlements, in which 22,000 people live, were “in the flooding zone” after the dam incident.
Rescue services had been dispatched and “the situation is under complete control,” he added.
Mayor of a town next to the dam says water has reached 32 feet
Vladimir Leontiev, the Russian-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka, a town on the south side of the Dnieper River next to the dam, said the water level there had already reached more than 32 feet, leading to the evacuation of 300 houses.
But the mayor said there was no threat of destruction of the town and “the worst possible situation has passed us,” according to the Russian state news agency Tass.
Leontiev also said that the dam was “built in such a way as to withstand a nuclear strike,” and had largely survived, but that all surface structures were damaged.
Western officials condemn the Kakhovka attack as an 'outrageous act'
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg was among Western leaders to condemn the destruction of the Kakhovka dam today.
"The destruction of the Kakhovka dam today puts thousands of civilians at risk and causes severe environmental damage," he said in a tweet. "This is an outrageous act, which demonstrates once again the brutality of Russia's war in Ukraine."
European Council President Charles Michel said the attack was unprecedented. "The destruction of civilian infrastructure clearly qualifies as a war crime — and we will hold Russia and its proxies accountable," he said.
Britain's foreign secretary, James Cleverly, who is in Ukraine, said the dam's destruction could ultimately be blamed on Russia's invasion. “It’s too early to make any kind of meaningful assessment of the details. But it’s worth remembering that the only reason this is an issue at all is because of Russia’s unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” he told Reuters.
Damage even worse than worst-case scenario, expert says
The damage caused by the breached dam "looks much worse" than a worst-case scientific model from last year because the water level of the reservoir is so high, a leading water expert has told NBC News.
Henrik Ölander-Hjalmarsson, CEO and founding partner of Dämningsverket AB, a Swedish hydrological modeling company, wrote a “catastrophic dam break scenario” at the request of UNICEF last year estimating a wave between 12 and 15 feet tall would rush downstream, flooding villages and submerging docks in the city of Kherson 19 hours later.
He said today this could potentially happen "in more like three hours" of the breach, because water levels in the reservoir were at a 30-year high, probably because not enough floodgates had been left open during the conflict.
“It’s a massive disaster and I’m deeply saddened the Russians have done this,” he said.
Dam destruction comes amid Kyiv counteroffensive speculation
The destruction of the Kakhovka dam comes days after Kyiv's forces appeared to launch a fresh series of attacks across the front lines in the south and the east, deepening speculation that a long-awaited counteroffensive had begun.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukrainian ground forces launched “a large-scale offensive” Sunday in five areas of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine. Kyiv denied claims, however, that its expected counteroffensive to reclaim occupied land had begun, accusing Russia of lying to sow distrust. It suggested that the long-anticipated attack was yet to come.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said today that the destruction of the Kakhovka dam was a “carefully planned act of terrorism" intended to block future Ukrainian offensive actions.
Videos show extent of damage to dam and power plant
Videos posted to social media and verified by NBC News show the sheer scale of the damage to the Kakhovka dam and power plant today.
Floodwaters spread and destroyed buildings along the dam and its bridge across the Dnieper River.
Another video shows the power plant partially submerged. Land downstream is also seen to be underwater, with only the tops of trees sticking out.
More images are emerging that show the extent of the damage to the dam. This handout picture released by the state-owned company Ukrhydroenergo shows the Dnieper River flowing freely downstream.
Burst dam could harm agriculture and spread toxic sediment
The burst dam could cut off irrigation to agricultural land and spread toxic sediment downstream, according to expert warnings since the launch of Russia's full-scale invasion last year.
“In the event that the dam is blown up, there will be a huge artificial wave of floodwater, dumping some portion of Kakhovka reservoir water downstream,” Eugene Simonov, coordinator of the Ukraine War Environmental Consequences Working Group, said in an interview in September posted on the independent organization’s website. “It will result in changes to the riverbed, wash away vegetation, and erode riverbanks.”
He said that “one of the main threats when a dam is destroyed” is that it spreads sediments that “can potentially contain a considerable volume of toxic substances.” There are also a quarter of a million hectares of agricultural land whose irrigation relies on the reservoir, he added. “These would cease to be irrigated” and “their restoration would require a great deal of money and time.”
Half a million could lose homes, water or power, expert says
More than 500,000 people could face dire consequences within the next 24 hours, a Ukrainian energy expert has told NBC News.
"A lot of them will lose their houses, a lot of them will have no access to fresh water, some of them will lose power connections," said Oleksandr Kharchenko, head of the Energy Industry Research Center consultancy. Several big cities could lose drinking water supply as early as tonight, he said.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has “four to five weeks” worth of water to keep the reactors cool, he said, but after that “the next step is an extremely dangerous situation” if not replenished.
Evacuations underway as at least 22,000 feared to be at risk
Evacuations are underway in the Kherson region, with Russian-installed officials warning that at least 22,000 people could be at risk, according to Russian state media.
At least 14 settlements with 22,000 residents were believed to fall into the zone of possible flooding, the head of the government of the Kherson region said, according to RIA Novosti.
The Kherson region was annexed by the Kremlin last year, but is only partly controlled by Moscow’s forces after a Ukrainian offensive recaptured the regional capital of the same name.
Russian-installed officials said evacuations near the dam have begun and that waters would reach critical levels within hours. Ukrainian officials urged residents of at least 10 villages and parts of the city of Kherson to gather essential documents and pets, turn off appliances and flee to safety.
Satellite images show dam before major damage
Satellite images captured by Maxar Technologies show what the Kakhovka dam looked like before today's damage.
The first image was captured May 28, with the second, taken Monday, a day before the structure was damaged.
The satellite photos suggest that a section of roadway and sluice gates had been recently damaged prior to the latest inciden.
Dam destruction raises fears over nuclear power plant
Ukraine's state energy company Energoatom has warned that the destruction of the Kakhovka dam poses a "threat" to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe.
The plant uses water from the Kakhovka reservoir to power its turbine capacitors and safety systems — but as a result of the strike, the water level is rapidly falling, the company said. As of 8 a.m. local time (1 a.m. ET), the plant's cooling pond was full and the water level was high enough at 16.6 meters (54 feet) to meet the plant's needs.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said its experts at Zaporizhzhia were monitoring the situation and had not reported any immediate nuclear safety risk.
Dam attack is 'biggest man-made disaster' in recent history, Kyiv says
A senior Ukrainian official has said the destruction of the Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power plant is without precedent in modern history and will affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
"The destruction of the Kakhovska HPP is the biggest man-made disaster in the world in recent decades, which kills the environment and will negatively affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the years to come," Andriy Yermak, the head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, said on Telegram this morning.
"The insane goal of stopping the Defence Forces’ advance and avoiding defeat and disgrace drives Kremlin criminals. They are willing to do anything to raise the stakes in this war," he added.
Zelenskyy posts video showing dam damage
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has shared video footage of the extensive damage to the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant and blamed "Russian terrorists" for one of the attack.
The video, apparently shot by a drone camera and verified by NBC News, show the almost complete destruction of the dam on the Dnieper River, with enormous floods gushing downstream.
"Not a single meter should be left to them, because they use every meter for terror," he said on Twitter referring to Russia.
Major dam destroyed in southern Ukraine
A vast dam on the front lines of the war in southern Ukraine has been destroyed, according to video verified by NBC News and local officials.
Water was surging through the critical Kakhovka dam today, threatening to inundate the surrounding Kherson region and immediately sparking evacuations from nearby areas and an emergency meeting in Kyiv.
Ukraine accused Russian forces of blowing up the dam, which sits in a Russian-controlled area of the front-line region. Russian news agencies said the dam had been destroyed in shelling, while a senior Russian-installed official said it was a terrorist attack, implying an attack by Ukraine.
NBC News has not verified the claims of either side.