Home International Russia’s biggest airstrike in weeks piles pressure on Ukraine power grid

Russia’s biggest airstrike in weeks piles pressure on Ukraine power grid

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Russian missiles and drones struck nearly a dozen Ukrainian energy infrastructure facilities on Wednesday, causing serious damage at three Soviet-era thermal power plants and blackouts in multiple regions, officials said.

Ukrainian servicemen use a searchlight as they search for drones in the sky over the city during a Russian drone and missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine May 8, 2024. Picture: Reuters, Gleb Garanich

By Anastasiia Malenko and Pavel Polityuk

KYIV – Russian missiles and drones struck nearly a dozen Ukrainian energy infrastructure facilities on Wednesday, causing serious damage at three Soviet-era thermal power plants and blackouts in multiple regions, officials said.

Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 39 of 55 missiles and 20 of 21 attack drones used for the attack, which piles more pressure on the energy system more than two years since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

“Another massive attack on our energy industry!” Energy Minister German Galushchenko wrote on the Telegram app.

Two people were injured in the Kyiv region and one was hurt in the Kirovohrad region, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said.

Galushchenko said power generation and transmission facilities in the Poltava, Kirovohrad, Zaporizhzhia, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Vinnytsia regions were targeted.

Some 350 rescuers were racing to minimise the damage to energy facilities, 30 homes, public transport vehicles, cars, and a fire station, the interior ministry said.

National power grid operator Ukrenergo said it was forced to introduce electricity cut-offs in nine regions for consumers and that it would expand them nationwide for businesses during peak evening hours until 11pm (20:00 GMT).

Officials urged Ukrainians to limit power consumption.

Russia’s defence ministry said it struck Ukraine’s military-industrial complex and energy facilities in retaliation for Kyiv’s strikes on Russian energy facilities.

“As a result of the strike, Ukraine’s capabilities for the output of military products, as well as the transfer of Western weapons and military equipment to the line of contact, have been significantly reduced,” the ministry said.

CURBING RUSSIAN ENERGY REVENUE

In an online address to mark the day Ukraine commemorates the end of World War Two, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said no military targets had been struck in Wednesday’s attack and voiced frustration over the West’s handling of Russia.

He singled out what he said was the West’s limited progress in curbing Russian energy revenue and some countries that attended President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a fifth term in the Kremlin on Tuesday.

“And everyone on Earth knows history and remembers how to fight Nazism. When humanity unites, opposes Hitler, instead of buying his oil and coming to his inauguration,” Zelenskiy said.

Ukraine has stepped up drone attacks on Russian refineries this year despite apparent objections by the United States, trying to find a pressure point against the Kremlin whose forces are slowly advancing in the eastern Donbas region.

Ukrainian strikes on Russian refineries may have disrupted more than 15% of Russian oil refining capacity, a Nato military alliance official has said.

After pounding the energy system in the first winter of the war, Russia renewed its aerial assault on the grid in March this year as Ukraine was running low on stocks of sophisticated Western air defence missiles.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal estimated that more than 800 heating facilities have been damaged and up to 8GW of power generation lost so far, adding the government needed some $1 billion to fund repair work.

Ukraine’s biggest private energy company DTEK, whose three thermal power stations were damaged in Wednesday’s attack, vowed to keep working to restore power at its facilities.

“To do so, we renew our call on allies to send more air defence systems and critical replacement equipment such as transformers and generators so that we can secure warmth and light for the Ukrainian people,” said Maxim Timchenko, DTEK’s CEO.

Officials did not name the facilities hit on Wednesday, part of a policy of wartime secrecy that Kyiv says is needed to prevent Russia using the information for further strikes.

But Lviv governor Maksym Kozytskyi said Russia attacked a natural gas storage facility in his region in the west of the country, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

In the central Poltava region, an energy infrastructure facility was hit by a drone, sparking a fire, Poltava Regional Governor Filip Pronin said.

The regional governors of Vinnytsia and Zaporizhzhia said separately that critical civilian infrastructure facilities were damaged while officials in the southern Kherson region said railway infrastructure was hit.

– REUTERS

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