Russian missiles pound power plants in central, western Ukraine


KYIV, UKRAINE: Russian missiles pounded power facilities in central and western Ukraine on Saturday, increasing pressure on the ailing energy system as the country faces a shortage of air defenses despite a breakthrough in U.S. military aid.

The airstrike, carried out with ballistic missiles and cruise missiles fired by Russian strategic bombers based in the Arctic Circle, was the fourth large-scale aerial assault targeting the power system since March 22.

“The enemy again massively shelled Ukrainian energy facilities,” said DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private electricity company, adding that four of its six thermal power plants had suffered damage overnight.

Rescuers battled to put out fires at several energy facilities in the western regions of Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk, which border NATO members Poland and Romania, officials said.

After strikes on energy facilities in the central Dnipropetrovsk region, running water supplies were disrupted in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih, officials said.

Ukrainian air defenses brought down 21 of the 34 incoming missiles, the commander of the air force said in a statement.

None of the facilities hit was identified by name, a security measure intended to prevent Russia quickly assessing the impact of its strikes.

Russia, which began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, denies targeting civilians but says the Ukrainian energy system is a legitimate military target. Ukrainian authorities said one energy worker was hurt overnight.

Overnight in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, which has been heavily bombed in recent weeks, a missile struck a hospital holding 60 patients, injuring a woman and damaging the building, nearby water pipes and power lines, the regional governor said.

Ukraine, which has tried to take the fight back to Russia in recent months using long-range drones, attacked the Ilsky and Slavyansk oil refineries in Russia’s Krasnodar region overnight, a Ukrainian intelligence source told Reuters.

The drone strike conducted by the SBU security service caused fires at the facilities, the source said. Russia’s Kushchevsk military airfield was also attacked in the southern region, the source said.

The Slavyansk oil refinery was forced to suspend some operations after being damaged in the attack, Russian state news agency TASS cited an executive overseeing the plant as saying.

Rolling blackouts

Ukraine has lost 80% of its thermal power generation and 35% of its hydroelectric capacity during Russian attacks, officials say.

Although the core of the energy system comes from nuclear power, that lost capacity serves a balancing function in the grid and its loss could be a big problem when consumption rises later this year, officials say.

Rolling blackouts have been introduced in several regions, but the full impact of the attacks has not been felt as consumption, which peaks in winter and the height of summer, is low because of mild weather.

There were no planned blackouts for now in Lviv region, but the governor urged residents to economize on electricity use, especially during the evening hours of peak consumption.

Zelenskyy called for more air defense supplies, faster deliveries and decisive actions from Kyiv’s allies.

The United States approved a major aid package for Ukraine this week, overcoming a congressional deadlock that dragged on for six months as Kyiv’s weapon stocks became depleted.

The Pentagon said on Friday it would buy $6 billion worth of new weapons for Ukraine including interceptors for the Patriot air defense system.

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles, who visited Lviv on Saturday, announced a $100 million military aid package including short-range air defense and drones with air-to-ground precision munitions coming separately.__VOA News