Russia on Wednesday, Nov. 23 unleashed a new wave of missile strikes at the Ukrainian energy grid and heating infrastructure, cutting power in at least a dozen regions and leaving millions without electricity, as defiant Ukrainian officials vowed to repair the damage.
The cruise missile attacks began with the 12:40 launch of weapons from 10 Tu-95 bombers in airspace over Russia’s western Rostov Region. The first missiles impacted at 13:30 and the last at 15:00. There were no early reports on the number of missiles fired. The base missile load of a Tu-95 is six weapons.
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, in a Wednesday tweet made public less than two hours after the strikes was defiant: “By the numbers: Not your rockets. Not your ‘shahids’ (Iranian kamikaze drones), not your shelling of maternity hospitals…will bring your wish for negotiations any closer. (Ukraine’s) only desire is to destroy the racist monstrosity (Russia). Negotiations with a terrorist country are only (possible) through the gunsights of the Ukrainian army.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in early October that the Kremlin would bombard the Ukrainian energy infrastructure so as to force Ukrainians to suffer through winter without power and heat, and to force Kyiv to the negotiating table. The most massive wave of strikes so far was on Nov. 15, with close to 100 precision-guided weapons fired.
In the capital Kyiv, multiple explosions were reported in the city’s northern Darnytsya District. Eyewitnesses and social media reported multiple strikes in the vicinity of two heating plants in the west and south of the capital. A Kyiv Post reporter observed fresh missile damage near the commuter town of Vasylkiv, to the south.
An announcement by the Kyiv regional defense command said a second missile hit a “residential region”. According to the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, this was a multi-story apartment building in the commuter town of Vyshhorod. RF-associated information platforms reported two Kyiv power stations, TETS-5 and TETS-6, were hit.
Ten persons died and more than 20 were injured in the strikes on Kyiv, among them children, a statement from the Kyiv mayor’s office said.
Elsewhere in the country, among the worst-hit targets was Khmelnytsky, in central Ukraine, where local officials reported a total blackout. Mayor Oleksandr Symchyshyn said in a statement that the city of more than 200,000 was “totally de-energized”. Local air defense forces shot down eight incoming missiles, a statement from the regional defense command said. The northern city of Sumy likewise was completely without power, water, or heating, news reports said.
Three nuclear power plants halted electricity delivery to the grid in the wake of the attacks, in order to prevent overloads, said Leonid Oliynyk, a senior manager in Ukraine’s national atomic energy company Energoatom, in a statement. All three plants had been reconnected to the grid by Thursday morning, UNIAN reported.
Multiple explosions were reported in the western city of Lviv, causing a city-wide blackout. In the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, blasts likewise cut power across most of the city, a city administration statement said. Other regions hit and partially losing power included Kharkiv, Dnipro, Mykolaiv, Sumy, Odesa, Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Kryviy Rih, Lutsk, Volyn and Vinnytsya, news reports said.
In Kryviy Rih power cuts stranded coal miners hundreds of meters underground. In Kharkiv, emergency shutdowns halted subway system trains.
Social media showed X-101 missiles flying low level over Kyiv. One incoming missile, according to social media, flew into the Dnipro River and sank. It was not clear whether the missile was shot down or flew into the water on its own, UNIAN reported. Ukraine’s air defense command in a Wednesday afternoon statement claimed its forces nationwide had shot down 51 of at least 70 cruise missiles launched by the Russian bombers, along with five ground-launched kamikaze drones.
The company responsible for Ukraine’s national power grid, Ukrenergo, said emergency shut downs would take place at locations across the country as emergency response teams moved to repair damage. A statement by the firm issued on Tuesday, Nov. 22 said more than 1,000 repair technicians are operating nationwide.
Commenting as the Kyiv strikes were in progress, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Office of the President, said: “Right now, the enemy continues to attack energy facilities. We have confirmation of hits on critical infrastructure objects in several regions…We do everything possible to ensure that people have access to electricity, and that our specialists are able to repair the energy infrastructure.”
By midday on Thursday, power had been restored to 60-75 percent of Kyiv homes and businesses, news reports said. Districts still cut off were clustered in the west and the south of the city, Kyiv Post staff at those locations observed. Power was back on by evening Wednesday in Lviv, news reports said. In hard-hit Khmelnytsky, repair crews had restored power to most homes and businesses by mid-morning Thursday, but scheduled rolling blackouts would continue to reduce load on the grid, said Serhiy Hamaliy, head of the Khmelnytsky region defense command, in a statement.
News agencies in Moldova, a country to Ukraine’s west, reported blackouts in the capital Chisinau and at multiple locations across the country in the wake of the attacks. Vice Premier Andrei Spinu said the Russian strikes against Ukraine’s power grid, overloads and power shortages had triggered electricity service breaks in neighboring Moldova.
Moldovan President Maia Sandu said: “Russia left Moldova in the abyss. We cannot trust a regime that leaves us in the dark and cold, that deliberately kills people out of a simple desire to leave other peoples in poverty and humiliation.”
Andriy Yusov, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman, in televised comments said the Kremlin is highly likely to repeat missile attacks on Ukraine’s power grid on roughly a weekly basis. He predicted collateral damage from the “missile terror” will increase in future strikes because Russian reserves of precision-guided weapons are near bottom, and that most likely the Russian military will fire S-300 missiles at Ukrainian targets. The weapon is designed to shoot down airplanes and capable of missing a ground target by as much as kilometer, he added.
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