Russian missile strikes pound Ukraine, knocking out power and putting entire country under air-raid alarm


Kyiv, Ukraine
CNN

A fresh round of Russian missile strikes across Ukraine on Friday morning put the entire country on air raid alert and sent people scrambling for cover whenever explosions were heard overhead.

“The enemy is aggressively attacking Ukraine. Increase risk. Stay in shelter,” Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv region military administration, asked residents not to ignore the alert on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia’s relentless and widespread attacks on Ukraine’s energy grid have, at least temporarily, deprived millions of civilians of electricity, heat, water and other critical services during the cold months. Repeated missile and drone strikes since October that have damaged or destroyed civilian infrastructure are part of the Kremlin’s strategy to terrorize Ukrainians and violate the laws of war, experts say.

Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrainergo said on Friday that Russia’s attacks on thermal and hydroelectric power stations and substations had knocked out more than 50% of the country’s power capacity, triggering a “state of emergency”.

Civilians shelter in a metro station on air raid alert in central Kiev.

Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said there were explosions in the city and three districts were hit by rocket attacks, cutting off the capital’s water supply. While technicians work to restore the supply, residents are advised to stock up on drinking water and avoid leaving shelters as the attack continues.

Residents bundled up in winter coats, hats and scarves as sirens wailed in Kiev’s underground stations. They huddled on the escalators, their faces lit up by their phones as they caught up on updates.

A photo shared by Kiev region officials shows fragments of a missile in the snow that the air defense system says has crashed. The military administration of the city of Kyiv announced that 37 of the 40 missiles that were fired at the city were intercepted.

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State and city officials across the country have reported casualties as explosions and missile attacks hit civilian infrastructure.

A Russian missile hit a three-story apartment building in central Kriviri, killing at least two people and emergency services digging through the rubble, officials said. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the presidential administration, said: “There may be people in the ruins.”

A residential building damaged by a Russian missile in Kiribati.

The head of the regional military administration, Oleh Sinyehubov, said that at least 10 missiles hit various targets in the northern Kharkiv region, damaging energy facilities and a hospital. There was no electricity in the city of Kharkiv and public transport was at a standstill. Kharkiv Mayor Ijor Terekhov said there was “massive destruction of infrastructure,” and residents were instructed to use so-called “invulnerable points” — temporary centers that provide relief from power outages — to collect food and hot drinks and charge cellphones.

Oleksandr Staruk, head of the military administration of the region, said more than 12 missile strikes hit the southeastern region of Zaporizhia, but it was not known what the target was.

Following the strike, sections of Ukrainian Railways in the Kharkiv, Kirovohrad, Dinetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions were out of service, and backup diesel locomotives were replacing some services. Ukraine’s Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said power plants in the east and south were damaged and warned of further emergency outages.

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Oleksandr Karchenko, director of the Energy Industry Research Center, a Ukrainian research and consulting firm, said on Ukrainian TV that the power outage is a preventive measure to prevent the grid from being destroyed before the disaster occurs. He added, however, that the outcome of the attack on Friday morning would be “exciting”.

“Unfortunately, we see that they (the Russians) are going to cut our nuclear and thermal power plants, damage more key power centers, focus their attacks on these facilities, and hit the regeneration facilities,” Karchenko said. “I ask the Ukrainians to understand that the situation is difficult, and I ask them to be as prepared as possible because there will be no quick improvement in the electricity situation.”

According to the Ukrainian Air Force, Russia hit the country with at least 60 missiles, launched cruise missiles from a ship in the Black Sea, and for the first time from Tu-95 strategic bombers at Engels Airfield on the southern Volga River in Russia. The site, home to Russia’s long-range nuclear-capable bombers, was targeted in a drone strike in early December that caused minor damage to two planes, the Kremlin said.

“The enemy wanted to significantly distract the air defense,” said Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ikhnat.

Police and investigators examine a crater in an industrial area destroyed by a Russian missile in Kharkiv.

Last Monday, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, Major General Kirill Budanov, said that while Russia is close to depleting its high-precision weapons, it still has enough material to cause damage. Iran has not delivered any ballistic missiles to Russia, echoed White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

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“We know their defense industrial base is taxed,” Kirby said of Russia. “We know they’re going to have trouble keeping up with that pace. We know that he[Russian President Vladimir Putin]has trouble loading up on properly guided bullets.

CNN could not confirm the level of Russian missile stockpiles previously estimated by Ukrainian officials.

The Biden administration is finalizing plans to send the Patriot, the United States’ most advanced ground-based air defense system, to Ukraine, two U.S. officials and a senior administration official said. The Ukrainian government has been asking the system to help it defend against repeated Russian missile and drone attacks. It is the most effective long-range defense weapon sent to the country and officials said it will help secure airspace for NATO and North Atlantic Treaty Organization members in Eastern Europe.

Ukraine and NATO nations have been grappling in recent months over how to defend Ukraine against Russia’s relentless offensive, which Ukrainian officials say has destroyed half of the country’s energy infrastructure.

On Tuesday, nearly 70 countries and international organizations pledged more than $1 billion in aid to repair Ukraine’s infrastructure. Last week, the Pentagon announced that it had approved an additional $275 million in security assistance to Ukraine, including equipment, artillery and weapons to help Ukraine boost its air defenses. In November, the US announced a package of 53 million dollars to support the maintenance of Ukraine’s energy system.

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