Russian missile strikes pound Ukraine, knocking out power and putting entire country under air-raid alarm

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Kyiv, Ukraine

A fresh barrage of Russian missile attacks across Ukraine on Friday morning put the entire country under air-raid alarm and sent people scrambling for shelter as explosions sounded overhead, with strikes hitting critical infrastructure and knocking out power.

“The enemy is massively attacking Ukraine. Increased danger. Stay in shelters,” Oleksiy Kuleba, the head of the Kyiv regional military administration, wrote on the Telegram messaging app, asking residents not to ignore the alarm.

Russia’s persistent and pervasive attacks on Ukraine’s energy grid have, at least temporarily, left millions of civilians without electricity, heat, water and other critical services in the freezing winter months. Repeated missile and drone attacks since October, which have damaged or destroyed civilian infrastructure, are part of a strategy by the Kremlin to terrorize Ukrainians and is in violation of the laws of war, according to experts.

Ukrainian energy operator Ukrenergo said on Friday that more than 50% of the country’s unified energy capacity was lost due to Russian strikes on thermal and hydroelectric power plants and substations, activating “emergency mode.”

Civilians shelter inside a metro station during an air raid alert in the centre of Kyiv.

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said explosions had sounded in the city and that three districts had been hit in the onslaught of rockets, disrupting water supply across the capital. He suggested residents prepare a stock of drinking water while technicians work to restore the supply, and not to leave shelters as attacks continued.

Residents bundled in winter coats, hats and scarves gathered in Kyiv’s underground stations as the sirens wailed. Huddled on escalators, their faces were lit by their phones as they scrolled through updates.

One photo shared by authorities in the Kyiv region showed the fragments of a missile in the snow, which it said the air defense system had downed. Kyiv city’s military administration claimed that 37 of 40 missiles targeted at the capital were intercepted.

Regional and city authorities across the country reported explosions and missile strikes hitting civilian infrastructure, and leading to some deaths.

In the central city of Kryvyi Rih, officials said a Russian missile had hit a three-story residential building, killing at least two people and that emergency services were digging through the wreckage. “There may be people under the rubble,” the deputy head of the presidential administration, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said.

A residential building damaged by a Russian missile in Kryvyi Rih.

At least 10 missiles struck various targets in Kharkiv region, in the north, damaging energy facilities and a hospital, according to Oleh Syniehubov, head of the regional military administration. There was no electricity in Kharkiv city and public transportation had also come to a halt. “There is a colossal infrastructural damage,” Kharkiv’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov, said, instructing residents to use so-called “invincibility points” – makeshift centers offering relief from power outages, to collect food and hot drinks, and recharge cellphones.

The southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia was hit by more than a dozen missile strikes, according to Oleksandr Starukh, chief of the regional military administration, but it was unclear what had been targeted.

Sections of the Ukrainian railway system in Kharkiv, Kirovohrad, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk region were out of power following the strikes, and back-up diesel locomotives were replacing some services. Ukraine’s energy minister, Herman Halushchenko, said power facilities in the east and south had been damaged, and warned of more emergency blackouts.

Police and investigators inspect a crater at a site of an industrial area destroyed by a Russian missile strike in Kharkiv.

Oleksandr Kharchenko, director of the Energy Industry Research Center, a Ukrainian research and consulting company, said on Ukrainian TV that power outages had been rolled out prior to the strikes as a preventative measure to protect the grid from blackouts. He added that, in spite of this, the result of the attacks Friday morning would be “unpleasant.”

“Unfortunately, we already see that they (Russians) are striking at the generating facilities again, trying to cut off our nuclear and thermal power plants, to damage additional key energy hubs, focusing their attacks on these facilities,” Kharchenko said. “I urge Ukrainians to understand that the situation is difficult, I urge them to be as prepared as possible for the fact that there will be no quick improvement in the situation with electricity.”

Ukraine’s Air Force said Russia pounded the country with at least 60 missiles, launching cruise missiles from its fleet in the Black Sea, and, for the first time, from Tu-95 strategic bombers at the Engels air base, on the Volga River in southern Russia. The base, which is home to Russia’s long-range, nuclear-capable bombers, was targeted in a drone attack last week, according to the Kremlin, slightly damaging two planes.

“The enemy wanted to massively disperse the attention of air defense,” a spokesman for the air force, Yurii Ihnat, said.

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