Concerns over the fate of the Nova Kakhovka dam had been building since the beginning of the conflict and Russia's takeover of the Kherson Oblast. The dam itself had already suffered damage in October when sections of it and some of its sluice gates were destroyed during a Ukrainian offensive. The dam was vital both for Ukraine and Russia.
The reservoir created by the dam provided a much-needed stable irrigation source for farmers who depend on the dam's water to cultivate some of Ukraine's most productive farmland. Crimea, which Ukraine claims but has been administered by Russia since 2014, depends on the Nova Kakhovka dam for drinking water as well.
The collapse of the dam means no more water is flowing along an important canal from the dam's reservoir to Crimea, leaving the Russian-administered peninsula to be dependent on water pumped into the region from across the bridge spanning the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland.
Furthermore, the dam's destruction could also affect the water supply to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which relies on water from the reservoir to keep its reactors from overheating.
Multiple nations note that the destruction of the dam may have led to "many deaths," and recently re-elected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already offered to create an international commission to probe the dam's destruction.
"Today's news means the plight of the people in Ukraine is set to get even worse," said United Nations Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths during a UN Security Council emergency meeting discussing the dam's destruction.
Russia and Ukraine have already been evacuating thousands of people since the dam's destruction.
Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Andriy Kostin noted that over 40,000 people are currently in danger of being flooded by the dam's destruction, and that over 25,000 people on the Russian-occupied portions of Kherson Oblast need to be evacuated.
Both sides immediately leaped to blame the other for the destruction of the dam. Kyiv claimed the dam's destruction – seized by Russia in the early hours of the war – was an attempt by Moscow to distract from Ukraine's long-awaited offensive, which President Volodymyr Zelensky said would not be affected. (Related: ACTS OF TERROR: Ukraine's intel chief admits his government has MURDERED "quite a few" Russian civilians.)
Zelensky further accused Russia of detonating an "environmental bomb of mass destruction."
"This crime carries enormous threats and will have dire consequences for people's lives and the environment," he added. "[But the explosion] will not affect Ukraine's ability to de-occupy its own territories."
Commenting on the risk the dam's destruction brings to the Zaporizhzhia plant, Zelensky's aide Mykhaylo Podolyak claimed that Russia has once again put the world "on the brink of a nuclear disaster … and this danger is growing rapidly."
Russia, meanwhile, has similarly blamed Kyiv for the dam's destruction. Russian state-owned news agency TASS provided evidence showing that Ukrainian forces had planned to blow up the Nova Kakhovka dam as early as 2022.
Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya pointed out that the head of the Armed Forces of Ukraine openly declared Kyiv's plan to destroy the dam in late December 2022.
"I underscore that as early as last year, leaders of the Ukrainian military publicly claimed they are ready to blast the dam in order to obtain some military advantage," he said during a UN Security Council meeting.
Nebenzya then presented a quote from a Washington Post article describing how Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Andriy Kovalchuk considered flooding the Dnipro River by destroying the dam, and the Ukrainian Army even conducted a test strike with an American-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launcher on one of the dam's floodgates to see if the river's water could be raised enough to prevent Russians from crossing the river without flooding nearby villages.
"The test was a success, Kovalchuk said, but the step remained a last resort. He held off," said Nebenzya, who added that Moscow had been warning the international community of a possible Ukrainian attack on the dam for some time now.
"We warned the global community and UN leadership about this," he said. "We regret that our calls to the Secretary-General [of the UN] to do everything possible to prevent this appalling crime remained unheeded."
Learn more about the state of the conflict in Ukraine at UkraineWitness.com.
Watch this video from "Tucker on Twitter" as Tucker Carlson discusses the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka Dam.