Ukraine faces power outages after ‘massive’ Russian strikes target energy facilities

Russian attacks on energy plants across Ukraine left more than a million households without electricity, officials said on Saturday

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia had launched a “massive attack” on Ukraine, with some strikes reported on energy infrastructure that resulted in power outages across the country.

More than a dozen Russian missiles pounded energy facilities and other infrastructure across Ukraine on Saturday, the Ukrainian air force said, with strikes causing blackouts in parts of different regions.

Russian airstrikes on energy facilities across the country have left more than a million households in Ukraine without electricity, the deputy head of the Ukrainian presidency, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said earlier on Saturday.

Fresh strikes targeted energy infrastructure in Ukraine’s west, Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrenergo said on social media, and officials in several regions of the war-scarred country reported power outages.

“These are vile strikes on critical objects,” Zelenskiy said earlier on Saturday. “The world can and must stop this terror.”

Power outages were reported in other parts of the country and local officials repeated calls to reduce energy use. Some parts of Ukraine have already cut their electricity use by up to 20%, according to Ukrenergo.

Parts of Kyiv suffered power cuts into the evening. In one central district, shops were closed and traffic lights were off.

“The geography of this latest mass strike is very wide,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address, citing regions in western, central and southern Ukraine.

“Of course we don’t have the technical ability to knock down 100% of the Russian missiles and strike drones. I am sure that, gradually, we will achieve that, with help from our partners. Already now, we are downing a majority of cruise missiles, a majority of drones.”

People use their phones as torches as they walk through a darkened street in Kyiv, Ukraine, after Russian missile attacks on energy infrastructure
People use their phones as torches as they walk through a darkened street in Kyiv, Ukraine, after Russian missile attacks on energy infrastructure. Photograph: Danylo Antoniuk/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Ukrainian forces had downed 20 missiles and more than 10 Iranian-made Shahed drones on Saturday, Zelenskiy said. The air force command earlier had said 33 missiles had been fired at Ukraine. Eighteen were shot down.

Most of the western city of Khmelnytskyi, which straddles the Bug River and had a pre-war population of 275,000, was left with no electricity, shortly after local media reported several loud explosions.

In a social media post on Saturday, the city council urged local residents to store water “in case it’s also gone within an hour.”

In the Russian Belgorod region bordering Ukraine, at least two civilians were killed in strikes on Saturday, according to the local governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov.

Nearly 15,000 people were left without electricity, he said.

Russia last week reported a “considerable increase” in Ukrainian fire into its territory, saying attacks had largely concentrated on the Belgorod region and neighbouring regions of Bryansk and Kursk.

Reuters witnesses in the southern city of Mykolaiv reported a power cut over several hours, disrupting mobile phone signals.

In the south-eastern city of Nikopol, which is regularly shelled from Russian positions across the Dnieper River, local authorities warned that air raid sirens would be switched off as a result of power cuts.

Instead, emergency vehicles driving around the city would warn of incoming aerial threats, officials said.

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said Moscow wanted to create a new wave of refugees into Europe with the strikes, while the foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said on Twitter that the attacks constituted genocide.

Smoke rises after Russian shelling in Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region
Smoke rises after Russian shelling in Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Photograph: LIBKOS/AP

Moscow has acknowledged targeting energy infrastructure but denies targeting civilians.

State grid operator Ukrenergo said the attacks targeted transmission infrastructure in western Ukraine, but that supply restrictions were imposed in 10 regions, including in Kyiv.

“The scale of damage is comparable or may exceed the consequences of the attacks [between] October 10-12,” Ukrenergo wrote on the Telegram app, referring to the first wave of strikes on the power system last week.

The deputy head of Kyiv’s city administration, Petro Panteleev, warned that Russian strikes could leave Ukraine’s capital without power and heat for “several days or weeks”.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press contributed to this report

Guardian staff with agencies

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