A huge dam in Ukraine was breached on Tuesday, creating a natural disaster.
Ukraine said Russia blew up the damn to try and hamper Ukraine's counteroffensive.
An expert said the flood will make it harder to Ukraine to reach occupied territory over the Dnipro river.
Ukraine accused Russia of blowing up a major dam that was destroyed on Tuesday, sending flood water barreling towards the homes of thousands of people.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on Twitter that Russia blew up the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant and the Nova Kakhovka dam "to create insurmountable obstacles" for the Ukrainian military.
He said Russia's purpose was "obvious" and called the dam's destruction a "premeditated crime." Russia has denied being responsible, although it controls the dam and its surroundings.
Podolyak said Russia was trying "to slow down the fair final of the war," as Ukraine's forces gear up to launch a counteroffensive and take back land from Russia after months on the defensive.
—Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) June 6, 2023
The road over the dam could have allowed Ukrainian forces to cross over the Dnipro river and into Russia-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine, the BBC reported.
Podolyak's comment suggests he thinks Russia would struggle to keep Ukraine back without taking such action.
There are some signs that Ukraine's efforts have already begun, though Ukraine has said that it would not share plans for its counterattack in advance.
Andrii Yermak, the head of Zelenskyy's office, said in a tweet that Russia's goal was to stop the advance of Ukrainian troops to avoid its own defeat.
Sergey Radchenko, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, concurred that Russia would be able to slow Ukraine's efforts by blowing up the dam.
"Just looking at the situation it seems Russia would have more reasons to blow up the dam as Ukrainians are gearing up for and have already started their counteroffensive," he told Politico.
"It will certainly make it more difficult for the Ukrainians to cross the river."
It is not clear exactly what led to the dam's destruction on Tuesday.
Some Russian officials say the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant was damaged in shelling by Ukraine, the BBC reported, and insist that the dam itself was not damaged.
Vladimir Leontiev, the mayor of Nova Kakhovka, said "a serious terrorist attack" had taken place, despite earlier saying there was no damage at all to the dam. The Kremlin accused Ukraine of "sabotage," and said it was trying to cut off water to occupied Crimea, which is downstream from the dam.
But details about the scale of the effects are emerging.
Zelenskyy said that around 80 settlements are in the flooding zone, and the head of NATO said it "puts thousands of civilians at risk and causes severe environmental damage" as he appeared to blame Russia.
Mustafa Nayyem, the head of Ukraine's State Agency for Restoration and Infrastructure Development, said the incident will have "devastating consequences" including "irreparable damage to hundreds of thousands of lives, and the risk of drowning for thousands."
It is not clear if anyone is dead is missing.
Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of the Kherson region, said around 16,000 people were in a "critical zone" and that people were being evacuated.
Yermak said the incident would have a devastating environmental impact and will affect hundreds of people for years to come.
The Kakhovka reservoir, which has been draining since the incident, is also the primary water supply for cooling the nearly Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is the largest in Europe and currently controlled by Russia.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Tuesday that there was "no immediate risk to the safety of the plant," but said it is monitoring the situation and said it is "vital that this cooling pond remains intact."
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