Russia Pounding Ukraine’s Energy Infrastructure

Russian forces continue to barrage Ukraine in multiple parts of the country — from the capital city Kyiv in the north to Odesa in the south — and target the country’s energy facilities.

Amid freezing temperatures, about 10 million people have been left without power and heat, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday in his nightly video address.

The Ukrainian president said people are experiencing blackouts and outages in 18 regions, as well as in Kyiv, and he added that utility workers are doing “everything to restore electricity.”

The chief executive of state utility operator Ukrenergo, Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, said on Ukrainian state television, “We need to prepare for possible long outages, but at the moment we are introducing schedules that are planned and will do everything to ensure that the outages are not very long.”

The capital also is facing “a huge deficit in electricity” according to the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, who told The Associated Press that about 2 million people, half the city’s population, are plunged into darkness periodically as authorities try to restore the city’s power grid.

A United Nations agency said it feared a humanitarian crisis this winter if the power outages continued.

Russia’s defense ministry said its strikes in Ukraine on Thursday were aimed at military and energy infrastructure, Russian news agencies reported.

Reuters reports that in its daily briefing, the defense ministry said that it used long-range weapons to hit defense and industrial targets, including “missile manufacturing facilities.”

Meanwhile, Zelenskyy met in Kyiv with the executive vice president of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis. The president thanked him for the EU’s planned financial assistance program of 18 billion euros in 2023. He expressed hope Ukraine will be able to receive the first tranche as early as January.

“Ukraine’s ability to continue to withstand Russia’s aggression, the ability of our budget to withstand financial challenges, the energy crisis caused by the war is extremely important,” said Zelenskyy.

Ukraine reports shelling, missiles nationwide

In the northeastern Kharkiv region, overnight shelling and missile strikes targeted “critical infrastructure” and damaged energy equipment, according to regional governor Oleh Syniehubov. Eight people, including energy company crews and police officers, were injured while trying to clear some of the debris, he said.

Russian forces employed drones, rockets, heavy artillery and warplanes in Ukraine’s southeast, resulting in the death of at least six civilians and wounding an equal number in the past 24 hours, the office of the president reported.

In the Zaporizhzhia region, part of which remains under Russian control, heavy fire targeted 10 towns and villages. The death toll from a rocket attack Thursday on a residential building in the city of Vilniansk climbed to nine people, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, posted on Telegram.

In Nikopol, located across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, 40 Russian missiles damaged several high-rise buildings, private houses, and a power line.

In the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, Russia was using troops pulled from Kherson to unleash heavy attacks. The Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired artillery on the towns of Bakhmut and nearby Soledar, among others. 

They were also shelling Balakliya in the Kharkiv region and Nikopol, a city on the opposite bank of the Kakhovka reservoir from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, the statement said. Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports. 

In Luch, a village that sits on the border between the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions, months of Russian shelling have turned the locality into a virtual ghost town. Before February 24, about 1,000 people lived in the village. Now, there are only 38 who remain.

Luch has been shelled from the side of the Russian-occupied Kherson region almost every day since the start of the war. No buildings remain intact in the village at present.   

“It’s tough. We are constantly hiding; we can’t figure out what side the missiles are coming from,” said Galyna, a resident of the village. “We had such a lovely village, and now there’s nothing left. Everything is in ruins.”

Yelyzaveta Krotyk contributed to this report. Some information for this report came from Agence France-Presse, Reuters and The Associated Press.