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

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A worker digs to uncover a gas pipe leading to a house that was destroyed during a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Krasylivka, Kyiv region, Ukraine, May 8, 2024. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

By Gleb Garanich and Anastasiia Malenko Reuters

Russian missiles and drones struck nearly a dozen Ukrainian critical infrastructure facilities in a major airstrike early on Wednesday, causing serious damage at three Soviet-era thermal power plants, Kyiv officials said.

The air force said it shot down 39 of 55 missiles and 20 out of 21 attack drones used in the attack, which piles more pressure on Ukraine’s beleaguered 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.

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

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

The strike was the latest in a wave of attacks on critical energy infrastructure that began in March.

The attacks have already forced authorities to impose rolling blackouts in several regions, but their full impact will likely be felt later in the year when energy consumption peaks at the height of summer and in winter.

Apart for southeastern Zaporizhzhia, all those regions are located far from the front lines in the east where heavy fighting is taking place and Russia has been gaining ground.

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

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

There was no immediate comment from Moscow. Russia denies targeting civilians but it sees the Ukrainian energy system as a legitimate military target.

REMEMBRANCE DAY

The airstrikes came on the day Ukraine commemorates victory over Nazism in World War Two, something that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy emphasised in an address on Telegram along with the February 2022 invasion.

“The world slept through the revival of Nazism – at 5 a.m. on February 24, 2022. And today, everyone who remembers the Second World War and lived to this day feels deja vu,” he said.

Grid operator Ukrenergo said on Telegram that equipment at one of its facilities in central Ukraine was damaged, without providing further detail.

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

According to preliminary information, there were no casualties.

Governors of the Vinnytsia and Zaporizhzhia regions said separately that critical civilian infrastructure facilities were damaged, without providing further detail.

All missiles targeting Kyiv were destroyed, Serhiy Popko, head of the city’s military administration, said on Telegram. He added there was no major damage or injuries as a result of the attack.

Air defence systems were also engaged in repelling the Russian attack over the Lviv region, which borders NATO-member Poland, where several blasts took place, regional officials said.

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