An explosion at a vast Ukrainian dam that sent flood water cascading into neighbourhoods on either side of the Dnipro river has caused international outrage. What does it tell us about the next stage of the war?
Just before 3am on Tuesday an explosion damaged Ukraine’s fifth-largest dam.
As dawn broke, footage showed water gushing through the remains of the structure that sits on the Dnipro river near the town of Nova Kakovkha.
Sources have told NBC News that the US government has intelligence that suggests Russia was responsible for the explosion, but National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has cautioned that it still cannot say conclusively who did it.
“What is clear and what we absolutely can say is that the damage to the Ukrainian people and to the region will be significant,” he said.
Although Western countries continue to equivocate about what happened, it seems Russia does have a lot to gain from destroying it.
In recent days there have been signs that Ukraine’s long-awaited counter-offensive might have begun.
Ukraine has made some advances and Russia claims to have repelled an attack, stopping Ukrainian forces from breaking through its lines.
The dam is on the frontline of the war and has been controlled by Russian forces since last year.
Ukrainian forces need to cross the Dnipro river to take back territory. The dam would have been an ideal point to do that and the flooding now makes it difficult to advance anywhere south of the explosion.
That means Russia can focus military resources on defending other occupied territory and distracts Ukraine from its offensive while it deals with the disaster.
The hydroelectric plant was also a crucial source of energy generation for Ukraine and the country’s agriculture minister has warned that the draining of the reservoir could affect irrigation systems. Ukraine is one of the world’s major grain producers
The water released by the explosion flooded areas on both sides of the river, including places that are occupied by Russia.
25,000 of the 80,000 people who could be directly affected are Ukrainian civilians living in Russian-controlled areas. They now risk being relocated into Russia under the guise of a humanitarian evacuation.