Russia pounds Ukraine’s energy sector, Kyiv urges more air defence assistance

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Russia barraged the Ukrainian capital with waves of missiles during the morning of 2 January 2024, cutting off power in parts of the city and sending debris from downed weapons falling across the area. [X, formerly Twitter/ Agencies]

By Olena Harmash Reuters

Russia launched a barrage of missiles and drones on Saturday that damaged energy facilities and critical infrastructure across Ukraine, injuring at least four people, and prompting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to issue a fresh plea for more air defence assistance.

The sixth major Russian air attack on the Ukrainian power sector since March damaged energy facilities in the east, centre, and west, the national grid operator Ukrenergo said.

Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 35 of 53 Russian missiles and 46 of 47 attack drones used for the strikes, which pile more pressure on Ukraine’s hobbled energy system as the war with Russia is in its third year.

“Russia’s main goal is to normalize terror, to use the lack of sufficient air defence and determination of Ukraine’s partners,” Zelenskiy said on the Telegram messaging app.

“Partners know exactly what is needed. Additional “Patriots” and other modern air defence systems for Ukraine. To accelerate and expand F-16 deliveries to Ukraine. To provide our soldiers with all the necessary capabilities.”

So far this year, Ukraine has found itself on the back foot as it faced delays in military aid from the United States, intensified attacks on its infrastructure and Moscow’s push to expand the frontline, 27 months after its full-scale invasion.

RENEWED ATTACKS ON POWER SECTOR

On Saturday, Russian forces attacked energy facilities in the eastern Donetsk region, southeastern Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk regions, central Kyrovohrad region and Ivano-Frankivsk region in the west, the energy ministry said.

Air alerts lasted for more than three hours across the regions with many people rushing for shelters in the middle of the night.

Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskyi said four people were injured and three critical infrastructure facilities were hit in the region on Ukraine’s border with Poland. He gave no further details on the facilities.

DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private energy-generating company, said its two thermal power plants had been hit and equipment “seriously damaged”.

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

Ukraine has stepped up drone attacks on Russian oil facilities this year, trying to find a pressure point against the Kremlin whose forces are slowly advancing in the eastern Donbas region and have opened a new front in the Kharkiv region in the northeast.

Russia pounded the Ukrainian energy system in the first winter of the war, and renewed its assault on the grid in March as Ukraine was running low on stocks of Western air defence missiles.

Ukrainian officials have said the Western aid has started to arrive but Russian bombardments over the past two months knocked out the bulk of the thermal and hydropower generation, caused blackouts, and pushed electricity imports to record highs.

The government was forced to nearly double consumer electricity tariffs to be able to fund massive repairs. It plans record electricity imports of about 27 megawatt hours (Mwh) for Saturday.

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