Russian missiles pound Ukraine’s embattled energy system

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A firefighter works at a compound of power infrastructure facilities, which was hit by Russian missile and drone strikes, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, at an undisclosed location in Ukraine April 11, 2024. Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS

By Tom Balmforth Reuters

Russian missiles and drones struck Ukrainian power facilities across five regions in a major attack on Thursday, officials said, ratcheting up pressure on the embattled energy system as Ukraine’s stocks of air defences dwindle.

The strikes damaged facilities from the Lviv region on the Polish border to the northeastern Kharkiv region where electricity was cut for 200,000 people, a presidential aide said, more than two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion.

“We need air defence and other defence support, not eye-closing and long discussions,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on the Telegram messaging app.

Kyiv’s appeals for urgent air defence supplies from the West have grown increasingly desperate since Russia renewed its long-range aerial assaults on the Ukrainian energy system last month.

The attacks, which hammered thermal and hydroelectric power plants, have sparked fears about the resilience of an energy system that was hobbled by a Russian air campaign in the war’s first winter.

Ukraine’s air force commander said air defences took down 18 of the incoming missiles and 39 drones. The attack used 82 missiles and drones in total, the military said.

The Ukrenergo grid operator said its substations and power generating facilities had been damaged in attacks on the regions of Odesa, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lviv and Kyiv.

Ukraine’s largest private electricity company DTEK, which lost 80% of its generating capacity during Russia’s March 22 and March 29 attacks, said Russia’s attacks hit two of its power stations, inflicting serious damage.00:14Floods swamp swaths of Russia and Kazakhstan

The strikes also attacked two underground storage facilities where Ukraine stores natural gas, including some owned by foreign companies, energy company Naftogaz said. The facilities continue to operate, it added.

U.S. ambassador Bridget Brink said 10 missiles struck critical infrastructure in the Kharkiv area alone.

“The situation in Ukraine is dire; there is not a moment to lose,” she said.

The region of Kharkiv, which borders Russia and already has long, rolling blackouts in place, was forced to cut electricity for 200,000 people, presidential aide Oleksiy Kuleba said.

AIR DEFENCE PLEAS

Ukraine has warned it could run out of air defences if Russia keeps up the intensity of its strikes and that it is already having to make difficult decisions about what to defend.

There has been a slowdown in vital Western assistance and a major U.S. aid package has been blocked by Republicans in Congress for many months, Ukraine has said.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia’s overnight attack used six ballistic missiles, which can hit targets within minutes and are much harder to shoot down. Kyiv says that is why it needs U.S.-made Patriot air defences.

“Ukraine remains the only country in the world facing ballistic strikes. There is currently no other place for ‘Patriots’ to be,” Kuleba wrote on social media platform X.

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