Ukrainians face emergency blackouts after Russian missile attacks

Outages will be most severe in the Kyiv region, as teams work to repair damaged infrastructure in freezing conditions.

A musician sits in the snow in Kyiv with his drum kit illuminated by lights and the buildings around in darkness.
Ukrainians face more blackouts in frigid conditions after renewed Russian assaults on key infrastructure [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

Ukraine has warned of more emergency blackouts, particularly in the Kyiv region, after a wave of Russian missile attacks damaged energy infrastructure that had only just been repaired.

The barrage of missiles, which plunged parts of Ukraine back into freezing darkness with temperatures below 0C (32F), was the latest in weeks of attacks hitting critical infrastructure.

At least four people were killed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address late on Monday, adding that most of the estimated 70 missiles had been shot down.

“In many regions, there will have to be emergency blackouts,” Zelenskyy said. “We will be doing everything to restore stability.”

The national electricity provider Ukrenergo said on Telegram that there would be renewed power cuts in all regions of Ukraine “due to the consequences of shelling”.

Ukrainians in thick coats and hats charge their phones and get warm inside a special mobile heated centre to help people get through power blackouts.
Residents charge their devices, use the internet and get warm at a ‘Point of Invincibility’ in Kherson, Ukraine. The mobile centres are designed to help people struggling without heat or power [Anatolii Stepanov/AFP]

About half of the Kyiv region – which does not include the capital and had a population of about 1.8 million before the war – will be without electricity in the coming days, the region’s governor said.

The attack caused damage to power plants in the regions of Kyiv and Vinnytsia in central Ukraine, Odesa in the south and Sumy in the north, officials said.

Nearly half of Ukraine’s energy system has already been damaged after months of raids on power infrastructure, leaving people in the cold and dark for hours at a time.

The country had only just returned on Monday to scheduled power outages rather than the emergency blackouts it has suffered since November 23, the most intense day of Russian attacks on energy infrastructure.

Ukraine says such attacks are aimed at civilians and constitute war crimes; Moscow denies targeting civilians.

The United States said it would convene a virtual meeting on Thursday with oil and gas executives to discuss how it can support Ukrainian energy infrastructure, according to a letter seen by the Reuters news agency.

A shop, which still has lighting, stands out in the pitch black of a power cut in Odesa. Some people can be seen in the shop buying goods.
Customers visit a store during a power cut in the southern city of Odesa. Nearly half the country’s energy grid has been destroyed by Russian missile attacks [Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia would fail in its “current gambit of trying to, in effect, get the Ukrainian people to throw up their hands”.

“The point is this, unless and until Russia demonstrates that it’s interested in meaningful diplomacy, it can’t go anywhere. If and when it does, we’ll be the first to be ready to help out,” he said at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington, DC.

Russian bases hit

Moscow on Monday confirmed a “massive attack on Ukrainian military command systems and related defence, communications, energy and military facilities” as it blamed Ukraine for drone attacks on two airbases inside Russia, which left three soldiers dead and two aircraft damaged.

Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attacks. If it was behind them, they would be the farthest incursions inside Russian territory since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24.

The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank, said it was “likely” Ukrainian forces were behind the attacks, and noted that anger over Moscow’s inability to prevent them outweighed praise for the latest raids on Ukrainian infrastructure among influential military bloggers.

Russia’s defence ministry said the attacks were “acts of terrorism” intended to disable long-range aircraft and that the low-flying drones had been shot down. The deaths were reported on the Ryazan base, 185km (115 miles) southeast of Moscow.

Meanwhile, on the war’s front lines in Ukraine’s east, Russian soldiers were attempting to cut roads to the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region from the west and northwest, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on YouTube.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told Ukrainian television late on Monday that only about 12,000 people were left in Bakhmut, compared with a population of approximately 80,000 before the war. He also said the city had neither electricity nor gas.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies