A torrent of water burst through a massive dam on the Dnipro River that separates Russian and Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, flooding a swathe of the war zone, forcing villagers to flee and prompting finger-pointing from both sides.
Ukraine said Russia had committed a deliberate war crime in blowing up the Soviet-era Nova Kakhovka dam, which powered a hydroelectric station. The Kremlin blamed Ukraine, saying it was trying to distract from the launch of a major counteroffensive Moscow says is faltering.
Some Russian-installed officials said the dam had collapsed on its own, while Washington said it was uncertain who was responsible. But Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Wood told reporters it would not make sense for Ukraine to destroy the dam.
Neither side offered immediate public evidence of who was to blame. The Geneva Conventions ban targeting dams in war because of the danger to civilians.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address that his prosecutors had already approached the International Criminal Court about the dam incident. Earlier, he claimed on Telegram that Russian forces blew up the power plant from inside.
Buses, trains and private vehicles were marshalled to carry people to safety while some people waded in knee-deep water, carrying pets and luggage.
"Residents are sitting on the roofs of their homes waiting to be rescued.... This is a Russian crime against people, nature and life itself," Oleksiy Kuleba, a senior official on Zelenskiy's staff, said on Telegram.