US intelligence is "leaning towards" Moscow being behind the attack on a dam in a Russian-controlled part of southern Ukraine, NBC News reports.

The Biden administration is working to declassify some of its intelligence and share it - with a motive still being assessed, NBC adds.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the bursting of the Nova Kakhovka dam as "an environmental bomb of mass destruction" and said only liberating the entire country could guarantee protection against new "terrorist" acts.

"Such deliberate destruction by the Russian occupiers and other structures of the hydroelectric power station is an

environmental bomb of mass destruction," Mr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

He said the destruction of the dam would "not stop Ukraine and Ukrainians. We will still liberate all our land".

"Only the complete liberation of Ukrainian land from the Russian occupiers will guarantee that there will be no more such terrorist attacks."

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Earlier, a state of emergency was declared around the dam by local Moscow-backed authorities.

Amid nearby flooding, evacuations were being prepared in the Nova Kakhovka, Golo Pristan and Oleshky districts, the latter two across the mouth of the Dnipro river from the Ukrainian-held regional capital Kherson.

The water level in the town of Nova Kakhovka is now up by 11m, according to its Russian-installed mayor, who said the town was now underwater and that around 600 houses had been flooded.

"The water continues to mount. An evacuation is being carried out of civilians from the adjacent flooded zones to preserve all lives ... There is no panic in the town," Vladimir Leontyev said in a video message on Telegram.

An emergencies official alongside him said the water below the dam was expected to keep rising for 72 hours before subsiding and allowing a clean-up operation.

Mr Leontyev added: "This crime cannot be written off. This is a terrorist act directed against civilians, Ukrainians did it".

TASS said half the span of the 3.2km-long dam had been destroyed and the collapse of the remainder was ongoing.

Ukraine's state hydroelectric agency said the plant had been "totally destroyed" after a blast in its engine room and could not be restored.

RIA also reported, citing the Kherson region's head, that 22,000 people in 14 settlements had been affected so far.

Rescue efforts

Evacuations have started on both the Ukrainian and Russian sides of the river.

In Nova Kakhovka residents were told to "collect personal belongings and documents, take food for three days and drinking water. Turn off gas and water before leaving your residential buildings."

A zoo called Kazkova Dibrova, located on the bank of the Dnipro, was completely flooded and all 300 animals were dead, a representative said via the zoo's Facebook account.

On the northern side of the river, Ukraine's interior minister said Russia was shelling areas in the southern region of Kherson from where people were being evacuated on Tuesday after the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam, and that two police officers had been wounded.

"The Russian military continue to shell territory where evacuation measures are being carried out. An hour ago, two police officers were wounded in the area. Shelling continues at the moment," Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko told Ukrainian television.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry called for residents of 10 villages on the Dnipro river's right bank and parts of the city of Kherson to gather "essential documents and pets, turn off appliances and leave".

Blame game

Both Ukrainian and Russian officials blamed each other for destroying the dam. Ukraine's military said Russian forces blew up the dam.

"The Kakhovka [dam] was blown up by the Russian occupying forces," the south command of Ukraine's armed forces said on Tuesday on Facebook.

"The scale of the destruction, the speed and volumes of water, and the likely areas of inundation are being clarified."

Andriy Yermak, the head of President Zelenskyy's administration, said the destruction was an attempt to "raise the stakes" in its full-scale invasion and stoke fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

Russian forces blew up the dam "in a panic", Ukraine's military intelligence agency added.

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The office of Ukraine's prosecutor general has started "urgent investigations" into whether the blast is a war crime or could be possible criminal environmental destruction, or 'ecocide'. Ukraine is one of a small number of states, including Russia, that have criminalised 'ecocide'.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Ukraine had sabotaged the dam to distract attention from its faltering counteroffensive and was also intended to deprive Crimea of the freshwater it receives from the reservoir.

"We can state unequivocally that we are talking about deliberate sabotage by the Ukrainian side," Mr Peskov told reporters.

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Asked about allegations Russia had destroyed the dam, Mr Peskov said: "We can strongly reject this. We officially declare that here we are definitely talking about deliberate sabotage from the Ukrainian side."

He said the sabotage could "potentially have very serious consequences for several tens of thousands of residents

of the region".

Nuclear nightmare

The dam was built in 1956 on the Dnipro river as part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant and supplies water to the Crimean peninsula and to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is also under Russian control.

Ukraine's state atomic agency said the dam's destruction posed a threat to the nuclear plant but that the situation at the facility was currently under control.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Twitter it was closely monitoring the situation but there was "no immediate nuclear safety risk at [the] plant".

International condemnation

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly warned "the destruction of Kakhovka dam is an abhorrent act [and] intentionally attacking exclusively civilian infrastructure is a war crime".

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