Russia targets Ukraine’s power facilities with wave of missiles, drones

Attacks leave more than one million people without power as Zelenskyy renews pleas for Western air defence systems.

Rescue members work at a site of residential buildings destroyed by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 22, 2024
Rescue teams work at residential buildings destroyed by a Russian missile strike in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 22, 2024 [Stringer/Reuters]

Russia has launched massive drone and missile strikes on Ukraine’s energy facilities, one of the largest attacks of its kind in the two-year war.

Kyiv officials said on Friday the attacks killed at least five people and left more than a million others without power, forcing Ukraine to seek emergency electricity supplies from Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russia hit his country with 90 missiles and 60 Iranian-made drones in a “war with people’s everyday lives”, reiterating his calls for Western partners to supply air defence systems.

“Russian missiles have no delays, unlike aid packages for Ukraine. ‘Shahed’ drones have no indecision, unlike some politicians. It is critical to understand the cost of delays and postponed decisions,” he posted on X.

“Patriot systems must protect Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia; air defence is required to protect people, infrastructure, homes, and dams. Our partners know exactly what is needed. They can definitely support us. These are necessary decisions. Life must be protected from these savages from Moscow,” he said of the large-scale overnight strikes.

Oleksiy Kuleba, deputy head of the presidential administration, said the strikes had left more than one million consumers across the country without power, including 700,000 residents in the eastern region of Kharkiv, at least 200,000 in the southern region of Odesa, 200,000 in the southeastern region of Dnipropetrovsk and another 110,000 in the central region of Poltava.

Energy Minister German Galushchenko said on Facebook that the barrage was “the largest attack on the Ukrainian energy industry in recent times”.

Shelling had knocked out “one of the power transmission lines feeding” the Zaporizhzhia power plant, Europe’s largest nuclear energy site, which was seized by Russian troops in the first days of the war but is powered by Ukrainian lines.

“The goal is not just to damage, but to try again, like last year, to cause a large-scale failure of the country’s energy system,” Galushchenko said.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal later said the situation in the energy sector was under control and there was no need for blackouts throughout the country.

As he echoed the president in calling for “more weapons”, he said, “Russia needs more sanctions and greater isolation. War must become an unbearable burden for the aggressor.”


The capital of the Kharkiv region, also named Kharkiv, lies just 30km (19 miles) from the border with Russia and has come under frequent bombardment since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Friday that 15 blasts had been heard and that missiles had “completely” cut off the electricity and heat supply.

“The city is completely without power, and as a result, the water and heating supply are not working,” he said in a video posted on Telegram.

“Utilities and power engineers need time to cope with the challenges posed by this hostile shelling … I ask everyone to stay calm and remain patient.”

Ukrainian officials said Russian missiles had also hit Kryvyi Rih, Zelenskyy’s hometown, and Vinnytsia, both in central Ukraine, damaging a “critical infrastructure object” in the latter city.

Ukraine’s state hydropower company said on Friday that a Russian strike hit Ukraine’s largest dam, the DniproHES in Zaporizhzhia, but there was no risk of a breach.

“There is currently a fire at the station. Emergency services and energy workers are working on the spot, dealing with the consequences of numerous air strikes,” the utility said.

The administration of Zaporizhzhia reported eight missile attacks in the city and said some residents had been wounded.

Russia's air attack, in Zaporizhzhia
A rescue team member takes a picture of an apartment building damaged during a Russian missile strike in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, March 22, 2024 [Reuters/Stringer]


The attacks follow closely on the heels of Russia’s strikes on Kyiv the previous day, the largest attack on the Ukrainian capital in weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin promised retribution for strikes and incursions into Russia’s border regions.

The Kremlin described the attacks as “revenge strikes” to punish Kyiv for the incursions.

The defence ministry said in a statement its forces had successfully struck a number of power grid objects, railway nodes, military factories, ammunition depots and concentrations of Ukrainian troops and foreign mercenaries.

“As a result of the strike, the work of industrial enterprises producing and repairing weapons, military equipment, and ammunition was disrupted,” the statement said.

“In addition, foreign military equipment and lethal weaponry delivered to Ukraine from NATO countries was destroyed, the transfer of enemy reserves to the front line was disrupted, and Ukrainian army units and mercenaries were hit.”

In Belgorod, a Russian region along the border with Ukraine, one woman was killed and several were wounded in a Ukrainian attack on Friday, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said. The Russian Ministry of Defence said it downed eight rockets fired on Belgorod from Ukraine with Vampire rocket launchers.

After the assault on Kyiv, Zelenskyy called on the West to deliver air defence systems.

Addressing the 27 leaders of the European Union via videolink as they met in Brussels for a two-day summit, he told them the shortfall in ammunition facing his troops was “humiliating” for Europe.

“Europe can provide more – and it is crucial to prove it now,” he said.

EU leaders on Thursday agreed to push ahead with a plan to use the profits from frozen Russian Central Bank assets to arm outgunned Ukraine, days after Putin tightened his grip over his country by winning a new six-year term in the presidential election.

The proposal, at the heart of talks between bloc leaders, could unlock about 3 billion euros ($3.3bn) a year for Ukraine.

“I’m glad that leaders endorsed our proposal to use the extraordinary revenues from immobilised Russian assets. This will provide funding for military equipment to Ukraine,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.

The push by the EU to find more funds for Ukraine comes as a $60bn support package from the United States, Ukraine’s other main backer, remains blocked in Congress.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies