Russian forces fired 76 missiles and carried out drone attacks across Ukraine on Friday, officials said, striking the capital Kyiv and cities in the north, south, west and centre.
Two people were killed when a residential building was hit in Kryvyi Rih and a third died in Kherson.
Attacks have intensified this week as Russia targets Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure.
Power was completely down in Kharkiv in the north and several other regions.
The energy minister estimated that nine power generation facilities had been damaged and a presidential official said emergency outages were taking place across the country. Power grid operator Ukrenergo said energy consumption had fallen by a half since Friday’s attacks.
Ukraine has accused Russia of “weaponising winter” by striking essential facilities as temperatures fall below freezing. Defence ministry adviser Yuriy Sak told the BBC that emergency services were working to restore supplies but the situation was “still difficult”.
The alarm was raised across Ukraine and Commander-in-chief General Valeriy Zaluzhny said air defences intercepted 60 of the 76 missiles fired, most of them cruise missiles.
Kyiv city officials said around 40 missiles had been fired at the capital alone – one of the biggest barrages since Russia’s 24 February invasion. Thirty-seven were brought down by air defences, it added.
A rocket did hit a residential building in the central city of Kryvyi Rih, leaving at least two people dead and eight wounded, authorities said.
And in the southern city of Kherson, another death was announced by prosecutors in an attack that set a block of flats alight before dawn on Friday. Two people were killed in shelling in the centre of Kherson on Thursday.
Russia’s attacks cut power throughout Ukraine’s second biggest city Kharkiv as well as in the Sumy region close to the northern border with Russia and in the central cities of Poltava and Kremenchuk. Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov spoke of “colossal destruction of infrastructure”.
Three staff at power facilities in Dnipropetrovsk region were wounded by missile strikes and the Kyiv metro was brought to a standstill.
Fifteen rockets were reportedly fired at Zaporizhzhia in the south while Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said several areas of the city were hit. Damage to energy infrastructure had affected the capital’s water supplies and city metro lines were for the moment not running, he said.
The head of the regional administration, Oleksiy Kuleba, said Russia was “massively attacking Ukraine”.
Russia has launched more than 1,000 missiles and Iranian-made attack drones since the wave of strikes began on 10 October, although most of them have been intercepted by air defences. The biggest barrage, in mid-November, involved more than 100 missiles and drones.
UN human rights commissioner Volker Turk warned on Thursday that further attacks on power facilities could “lead to a further serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation and spark more displacement”.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said this week that Russian strikes had damaged “all thermal and hydroelectric power plants”, leading to widespread blackouts and interruptions in heating and water supplies.
In some areas, electricity is only available a few hours per day.
Meanwhile, Russian-backed proxy officials in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region accused Ukrainian forces of shelling a town and a village overnight in the Luhansk region. Details of the deaths could not be confirmed.
Authorities say Russia is responding to military setbacks on the battlefield, following Ukraine’s recent successes in retaking occupied territory, including Kherson a month ago.
“They need to compensate for it. They’re trying to create conditions to force Ukraine to negotiate. This will not happen. This is not going to work,” Mr Sak told the BBC. He said Russia’s Vladimir Putin still wanted to control the whole of Ukraine and the message was that the war was far from over.
It is unclear why Russia has intensified its strikes this week, but US President Joe Biden is reportedly finalising plans to send Patriot air defence missiles to Ukraine, after months of requests from Kyiv.
Ukraine’s air defences have had considerable success in limiting casualties from Russian air attack and Kyiv authorities said all 13 drones launched at Kyiv on Wednesday were successfully shot down.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has been losing momentum, almost 10 months into its invasion. But Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov warned there was mounting evidence that Russia was planning a broad new offensive, possibly early next year.
“The Russians are preparing some 200,000 fresh troops. I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv,” armed forces chief Gen Zaluzhny, told the Economist.__BBC.com