Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian forces on Tuesday of blowing up the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station from inside the facility, and said Russia must be held to account for a "terrorist attack."
A Ukrainian military spokesperson said Russia's aim was to prevent Ukrainian troops crossing the Dnipro River to attack Russian occupying forces.
Russian-installed officials gave conflicting accounts, some blaming Ukrainian shelling, others saying the dam on the Dnipro had burst on its own.
"Tonight at 02:50, Russian terrorists carried out an internal detonation of the structures of the Kakhovskaya HPP. About 80 settlements are in the zone of flooding," Zelensky said after an emergency meeting of senior officials.
"We are doing everything to save people," he said on the Telegram messaging app, adding that at the meeting "a set of international and security measures was agreed upon to hold Russia accountable for this terrorist attack."
A 'new stage of Russian aggression'
Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said on Twitter the move amounted to "a fundamentally new stage of Russian aggression."
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned of an environmental threat that he said could result in "regional ecocide."
Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for Ukraine's southern military command, described the destruction of the dam as "a hysterical reaction" to prevent Ukrainian troops attacking Russian forces on the opposite side of the Dnipro River.
Serhiy Naev, commander of the joint forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, was quoted by state news agency Ukrinform as saying flooding caused by the dam's destruction "should not prevent our advance in those directions where there may be spillage of water."