Russia has announced Sunday that a major dam in the Russian-controlled region of Kherson was damaged in a Ukrainian strike using an advanced US-supplied system.
"Today at 10:00 there was a hit of six HIMARS rockets. Air defense units shot down five missiles, one hit a lock of the Kakhovka dam, which was damaged," Russian news agencies quoted local emergency authorities as saying.
The Kakhovka hydroelectric dam in southern Ukraine has been in Russian hands since near the start of the invasion of Ukraine, considered a critical asset to the Russians given it supplies water to Crimea. This also makes it a potential target for the Ukrainian army, given President Zelensky's prior pledges to "liberate" Crimea.
An official with the Moscow-installed administration, however, said "Everything is under control. The main air defense strikes were repelled, one missile hit [the dam], but did not cause critical damage."
The Kakhovka dam has for months been at the center of competing accusations and claims, with President Zelensky saying weeks ago that Russian troops are plotting a 'false flag' detonation of the large structure in order to trigger cataclysmic flooding.
Zelensky appealed to world powers to ensure the dam's safe operation by sending an international mission to protect and operate it, pointing out that if the dam burst it would case a "catastrophe on a grand scale".
"The dam of this hydroelectric power plant holds about 18 million cubic meters of water," he said in statements last month. "If Russian terrorists blow up this dam, more than 80 settlements, including Kherson, will be in the zone of rapid flooding. Hundreds, hundreds of thousands of people may be affected."
He described that Russian forces previously kicked the dam workers out of the facility and now have complete control over it. "They have complete control over the station," Zelensky added. “It is necessary to act immediately so that Russia does not have the opportunity to realize this catastrophe."
The ongoing standoff mirrors that of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has also from the war's start been under Russian control but has also suffered shelling, which if damaged severely enough could have catastrophic effects on the whole area, given the potential for radioactive fallout.