Ukraine says 30% of its power plants destroyed in last eight days

Nato secretary general says new counter-drone defences to be delivered to Ukraine within days

Nearly a third of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed by Russian attacks since Monday last week – prompting Nato’s secretary general to announce that new counter-drone defences would be delivered within days.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, accused Russia of engaging in “terrorist attacks” with its missiles and Iranian-made drones, while British ministers attended emergency meetings in Washington on how to counteract them.

Zelenskiy tweeted: “Since Oct 10, 30% of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts across the country.” Attacks on civilian infrastructure meant there was “no space left for negotiations with Putin’s regime”.

The bombing is often inaccurate and civilians have been killed in residential buildings in Kyiv and other big cities. But enough have got through to cause problems for a power grid already short of generation after the Zaprorizhzhia nuclear power plant was shut down.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the presidential office, said energy infrastructure and power supply were targeted overnight in an eastern district of Kyiv, where two people were killed, and in the cities of Dnipro and Zhytomyr.

“The situation is critical now across the country because our regions are dependent on one another … it’s necessary for the whole country to prepare for electricity, water and heating outages,” Tymoshenko told Ukrainian television.

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary general, said member countries would “step up” and deliver more air defences to help stabilise the situation. “Nato will in the coming days deliver counter-drone systems to counter the specific threat of drones, including those from Iran,” he said.

Russia has been targeting Ukraine with a mixture of missiles and, more recently, Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones, rebranded as Geran-2 by the attackers.

Although there are signs that Moscow is running short on guided missiles, it has acquired up to 2,400 of the drones, according to Ukraine, and is using them as cheaper substitutes to hit the energy targets and strike fear into civilians.

Iran denies supplying the drones to Russia, while the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said he did not have any information about their origin. “Russian equipment with Russian names is being used,” Peskov said.

Ukraine, experts and western governments believe the Gerans are rebranded Shahed drones, identifiable by their distinctive delta wing shape and from an examination of fragments recovered from the ground.

A western official, speaking on condition of anonymity in a briefing on Tuesday, said they believed Russia was “pursuing a deliberate strategy of attempting to destroy Ukraine’s electricity network”. It was “not in doubt”, the official said, “where these weapons were coming from”.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said he would ask Zelenskiy to cut diplomatic ties with Tehran – while presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak asked what Iran had got in return from Russia, speculating that it could be uranium, “nuclear technologies”, or some other guarantee.

Reuters reported that Iran had promised to provide Russia with surface-to-surface missiles, in addition to more drones, citing two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats.

Germany said that Iran should be punished with “further sanctions” after the recent spate of drone attacks. Its ambassador to the UK, Miguel Berger, said Tehran had helped Russia “terrorise civilians in Ukraine with their kamikaze drones” and there were “worrying reports” that Iran might sell missiles to Moscow.

The UK defence secretary, Ben Wallace, and the foreign secretary, James Cleverly, flew to Washington on Tuesday to discuss how to respond to Iran’s intervention, as officials briefed that a new air defence package for Ukraine was being prepared.

A western official said a lot of colleagues within the western alliance were “looking at what the right package might be to support the Ukrainians”.

Last week Germany delivered the first of four Iris-T air defence systems it had promised to supply Ukraine, but the US has been wary of strengthening Ukraine’s air force and defences for fear it would be seen as an escalation.

Two “objects of critical infrastructure” were damaged in Kyiv on Tuesday, said the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, and electricity and water supply in “many houses” in east Kyiv was “partially limited”.

The mayor appealed to residents to conserve electricity by turning off air conditioners, electric kettles and microwaves, and said houses experiencing reduced water pressure should use water as “economically as possible”.

All of Zhytomyr was without electricity and water after a double missile strike on an energy facility, said the mayor, Serhiy Sukhomlyn. Hospitals were running on backup power, he said.

Russia said on Tuesday that its forces were maintaining strikes against military and energy infrastructure targets, and that it had used what it described as high-precision, long-range air- and sea-based weapons.

The targets were “military command and energy infrastructure of Ukraine, as well as arsenals with ammunition and foreign-made weapons”, it said. “All assigned objects were hit,” it added.

Klitschko said a fifth person, an elderly woman, had been found dead after a wave of drone attacks in the centre of Kyiv on Monday morning. She died after a residential building was hit by a drone.


Dan Sabbagh in Kyiv and Patrick Wintour

The GuardianTramp

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