Russia unleashed a missile barrage targeting energy infrastructure across Ukraine early Thursday, hitting residential buildings and killing at least six people in the largest such attack in three weeks, officials said.
In southern Ukraine, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is occupied by Russian forces, lost power as a result of the missile attacks, according to nuclear state operator Energoatom.
It is the sixth time the plant has been in a state of blackout since it was taken over by Russia months ago, forcing it to rely on 18 diesel generators that can run the station for 10 days, Energoatom said. Nuclear plants need constant power to run cooling systems and avoid a meltdown.
“The countdown has begun,” Energoatom said.
Five people were killed in the Lviv region after a missile struck a residential area, Lviv Gov. Maksym Kozytskyi said. Three buildings were destroyed by fire and rescue workers were combing through rubble looking for more possible victims, he said.
A sixth person was killed and two others wounded in multiple strikes in the Dnipropetrovsk region that targeted its energy infrastructure and industrial facilities, Gov. Serhii Lysak said.
Air raid sirens wailed through the night across Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv, where explosions occurred in two western areas of the city. Defense systems were activated around the country.
Overall, Russia launched 81 missiles and eight exploding Shahed drones, according to Ukraine’s Chief Commander of the Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi. Thirty-four cruise missiles were intercepted, as were four drones, he said.
The city’s administration said Kyiv was attacked with both missiles and exploding drones and that many were intercepted but that its energy infrastructure was hit.
Cars ablaze in Kyiv
Ukraine destroyed 34 cruise missiles and four Shahed suicide drones, and eight drones and guided missiles were also prevented from reaching their targets, it said in a statement. The Ukrainian military cannot intercept the Kinzhal missile.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said explosions were reported in the Holosiivskyi district of the city, and two people were wounded in the Sviatoshynskyi district, also on the west side of the city, and cars were ablaze there, the mayor added.
The alarm in Kyiv was lifted just before 8 a.m. local time, with the air raid sirens falling silent after some seven hours.
The missile barrage struck as Russia pushed its advance in Ukraine’s eastern stronghold of Bakhmut, where a grinding fight between the two sides has gone on for six months and reduced the city to a smoldering wasteland.
It also came hours after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited Kyiv for talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on extending an agreement that allows Ukraine to ship grain from its Black Sea ports and permits Russia to export food and fertilizers.
Private electricity operator DTEK reported that three of its power stations had been hit. There were no casualties, but the company said equipment was severely damaged.
In Eastern Ukraine, 15 missiles struck Kharkiv and the outlying northeastern region, hitting residential buildings, according to Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Syniehubov. He promised to reveal more details about the scale of the damage or any casualties in Ukraine’s second-largest city.
“Objects of critical infrastructure is again in the crosshairs of the occupants,” he said in a Telegram post.
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov reported on Telegram that there were “problems with electricity” in some parts of the city.
The governor of the southern Odesa region, Maksym Marchenko, also reported strikes on Odesa, saying that energy facilities and residential buildings were hit. Marchenko warned on Telegram for people to stay in shelters.
“The countdown has begun,” Energoatom said.
Ukraine’s Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko condemned the missile strikes as “another barbaric massive attack on the energy infrastructure of Ukraine,” saying in a Facebook post that facilities in Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk and Zhytomyr regions had been targeted.
Ukrainian Railways reported power outages in certain areas, with 15 trains delayed up to an hour.
Many in Kyiv without heat
Preventive emergency power cuts were applied in Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk and Odesa regions, supplier DTEK said. Klitschko said 40 per cent of consumers in Kyiv were without heating because of the emergency power cuts. Water supplies were uninterrupted, he said.
More explosions were reported in the northern city of Chernihiv and the western Lviv region, as well as in the cities of Dnipro, Lutsk and Rivne. Ukrainian media also report explosions in the western regions of Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil.
Russia has been hitting Ukraine with these massive missile attacks since last October. Initially, the barrages targeting the country’s energy infrastructure took place weekly, plunging the entire cities into darkness, but became more spread out in time, with commentators speculating that Moscow may be saving up ammunition.
The last massive barrage took place on Feb. 16