Europe Politics

Russian missiles pound Ukraine's energy system, force power outages

A local resident, Liubov Onyschenko, is seen in her house heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the village of Kupriianivka, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine December 7, 2022. 
Stringer | Reuters

Russia unleashed a new wave of missile strikes on energy infrastructure across Ukraine on Friday, causing emergency power outages for millions of people and prompting new calls by Kyiv for Western arms.

Ukraine's air force said Russia had fired 71 cruise missiles, of which 61 were shot down, and explosions were reported by local officials around the country including in the capital Kyiv.

At least 17 missiles hit the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia in an hour in the heaviest attack since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, local officials said.

Energy Minister German Galushchenko said thermal and hydropower generation facilities and high-voltage infrastructure had been hit in six regions, forcing emergency electricity shutdowns across most of the country.

"The most difficult situation is in Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and Khmelnytskyi regions," he said, referring to regions in the southeast, northeast and west of Ukraine.

"Thanks to the successful work of the air defense forces and early technical measures, it was possible to preserve the integrity of the energy system of Ukraine. Energy workers are working non-stop to restore energy supply."

DTEK, Ukraine's largest private energy company, said four of its thermal power stations had been damaged and two energy workers injured. Water supplies were also hit in some areas, local officials said.

There was no immediate word of any deaths but Oleh Synehubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said eight people had been wounded.

Kyiv wants quick decisions

The new Russian attacks followed a rare trip abroad this week by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that included talks with European Union leaders in Brussels aimed at securing more weapons for Ukraine including fighter jets. "Russia has been striking at Ukrainian cities all night & morning," presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter. "Enough talk & political hesitation. Only fast key decisions: long-range missiles, fighter jets, operational supplies logistics for Ukraine."

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, said two Russian Kalibr missiles launched from the Black Sea had flown through the airspace of Moldova and NATO member Romania before entering Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said these missiles were a challenge to the military alliance and to collective security.

"These missiles are a challenge to NATO and collective security. This is terror that can and must be stopped," he said in a video on Telegram messaging app.

Russia did not immediately comment. Moldova confirmed its airspace had been violated by a Russian missile and summoned the Russian ambassador to protest. Romania said a Russian missile launched off a ship near Crimea crossed into Moldovan airspace before hitting Ukraine but did not enter Romanian airspace.

Ukraine could have shot down the missiles but did not do so because it did not want to endanger civilians in foreign countries, the Ukrainian air force spokesperson said.

Russia has carried out repeated waves of attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities in recent months, at times leaving millions of people without light, heating or water supplies during the cold winter.