Ukraine: Russian missile barrage rains down on cities across Ukraine

KYIV: Russia launched a massive barrage of missiles and drones on Thursday that struck residential buildings and critical infrastructure across Ukraine, killing six people, leaving hundreds of thousands without heat or power and knocking out a power plant nuclear power grid for hours. It was the largest such attack in three weeks.
Air raid sirens sounded throughout the night as attacks targeted a wide swathe of the country, including in western Ukraine, which is far from the front lines. President Volodymyr Zelensky said the blockade that occurred while many people slept was an attempt by Moscow “to intimidate Ukrainians again”.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the strikes were retaliation for a recent incursion into the Bryansk region in western Russia by what Moscow said were Ukrainian saboteurs. Ukraine denied the claim and warned that Moscow could use the allegations to justify stepping up its own assaults.
The war largely resulted in a battlefield stalemate over the winter. Kremlin forces began targeting Ukraine’s power supply last October in an apparent attempt to demoralize the civilian population and coerce kyiv into negotiating peace on Moscow’s terms.
The attacks then became less frequent, with analysts speculating that Russia may have run out of ammunition. The last major bombardment took place on February 16.
A total of 81 Iranian-made Shahed missiles and eight high-explosive Iranian-made Shahed drones were launched by Russia on Thursday, according to the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi. Thirty-four missiles were intercepted, along with four drones, he said.
Among the weapons were six Kinzhal hypersonic cruise missiles, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Youri Ihnat said.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the dam hit military and industrial targets in Ukraine “as well as the energy facilities that supply them”.
Nearly half of households in the capital of Kiev had no heating, as did many in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where the water was also cut off on a day when the minimum was expected to be close to the freezing point, according to local authorities.
Around 150,000 homes were left without electricity in the Zhytomyr region of northwestern Ukraine. In the southern port of Odessa, emergency power cuts occurred due to damaged power lines.
Viktor Boukhtaa 57-year-old resident of Kyiv’s Sviatoshynskiy district, where officials said three people were injured, said a missile landed nearby early in the morning.
“We went to the yard. People have been injured,” he said. “Then the cars caught fire. We tried to put them out with car fire extinguishers. And I got a little burned.
Following the attack, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, occupied by Russian forces, had to switch to diesel generators, according to nuclear operator Energoatom. Hours later, Ukrainian electricity grid operator Ukrenergo said the plant had been reconnected to the grid.
It is the sixth time that Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has failed since it was taken over by Russia months ago. Nuclear power plants need constant power to run cooling systems and prevent a meltdown.
Diesel generators can keep the plant running for 10 days, but frequent shutdowns have raised fears of the possibility of a disaster in Zaporizhzhia.
The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog said he was “astonished by the complacency” of members of the organization he heads, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“What are we doing to prevent this from happening? We are the IAEA, we are supposed to care about nuclear safety,” Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told his board at a meeting on Thursday, according to a statement from the organization.
“Each time we roll a dice,” he said. “And if we let this go on and on, then one day our luck will run out.”
The agency has placed teams of experts in Ukraine’s four nuclear power plants to reduce the risk of serious accidents.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was scathing about the attack, tweeting: “No military targets, just Russian barbarism.”
The Kyiv city administration said the capital was attacked with both missiles and explosive drones. Many were intercepted, but its energy infrastructure was hit.
Smoke could be seen rising from a facility in the Holosiivskyi district of kyiv and police had cordoned off all roads leading there.
Three men and two women were killed in the western Lviv region after a missile hit a residential area, Governor Maksym Kozytskyi said. Three buildings were destroyed by fire and rescuers were digging through the rubble for other possible victims, he said.
A sixth person was killed and two others injured in multiple strikes in the Dnipropetrovsk region that targeted its energy infrastructure and industrial facilities, Governor Serhii Lysak said.
Besides the rain of missiles, Russian shelling killed six other civilians from Wednesday to Thursday, Ukrainian officials said, including three people at a bus stop in Kherson.


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