Russia launches ‘massive’ missile and drone attack on Ukraine’s energy facilities

Worries about a renewed Russian offensive are intensifying as Ukrainian forces struggle to regain their footing.

Russian forces have unleashed an overnight barrage of more than 50 cruise missiles and explosive drones at Ukraine’s power grid, targeting a wide area in an attack that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described as “massive”.

The bombardment blasted targets in seven Ukrainian regions, including the Kyiv area and parts of the south and west, damaging homes and the country’s rail network, authorities said. Officials said three people were injured, including an 8-year-old girl.

National electrical grid operator Ukrenergo said facilities were hit in the Vinnytsia, Zaporizhzhia, Kirovohrad, Poltava and Ivano-Frankivsk regions.

Two energy facilities were hit in the Lviv region, which is in the country’s far west and distant from the fighting’s front lines, according to regional Governor Maksym Kozytskyi.

DTEK, Ukraine’s biggest private energy supplier, said the attack “seriously damaged” equipment at three of its thermal power plants.

The attack was the fifth in the last six weeks targeting the company’s facilities, DTEK said. Overall, since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, the company’s assets have come under attack nearly 180 times, injuring 51 workers and killing three, it said.

Russia launched 55 missiles and 21 Shahed drones overnight, the Ukrainian air force said. Air force commander Mykola Oleshchuk said that air defences had downed 39 of the missiles and 20 of the drones.

Russian forces also damaged the railway station building and train tracks in Kherson, national railway operator Ukrzaliznytsia said.

Smashing the grid

Russia has repeatedly pounded Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since its full-scale invasion in 2022. The Kremlin’s aim is to cut off the energy supply to Ukrainian industry, especially military plants, and crush public morale.

Mass barrages like those seen overnight also drain Ukrainian air defences of ammunition as Kyiv’s depleted forces await delivery of the latest batch of promised Western military support.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has framed the attacks as retaliation for Ukrainian long-range strikes on Russian oil refineries. On Wednesday, one such Ukrainian attack in the partially occupied Luhansk region hit an oil terminal, injuring five workers and starting a fire, Russian-appointed authorities said.

Ukrainian servicemen turn over a damaged car at the scene of a Russian missile attack in Zaporizhzhia.
Ukrainian servicemen turn over a damaged car at the scene of a Russian missile attack in Zaporizhzhia.Andriy Andriyenko/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Russian bombardments, though frequent, have become less regular in recent weeks, and Ukrainian officials suspect Moscow is stockpiling resources ahead of a major battlefield offensive that could come within weeks.

The 1000-kilometre front line has changed little since the early months of the war, but Russia has recently made small but steady gains in some areas as Ukraine battles with a lack of manpower and a shortage of weapons.

In a social media post, Zelenskyy noted that Wednesday’s attacks occurred on the day that Ukraine observes the end of European fighting in World War II and equated Ukraine’s current struggle with that conflict.

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Anton Nieuwenhuizen

Written by:Anton Nieuwenhuizen All posts by the author

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