Russia launches missile attack on Ukraine’s key infrastructure

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — Russian missiles hit Ukraine Thursday in the largest wave of strikes in weeks, damaging power plants and other critical infrastructure in freezing winter weather.

Russia fired 69 missiles at energy facilities, while Ukrainian forces shot down 54, General Valery Zaluzhny, commander of the Ukrainian armed forces, said. Local authorities said at least two people were killed in the attacks near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. The strikes also injured at least seven people across the country, though the number of attacks rose as officials assessed the day’s events.

The Ukrainian Air Force said Russia sent drones loaded with explosives overnight to selected areas and then stepped up its air and sea-launched missile attacks. Air raid sirens sounded across the country, and in Kyiv, the military activated air defense systems, the regional administration said.

The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine said that as a result of the attack, 18 residential buildings and 10 critical infrastructure facilities in 10 regions were damaged.

Since October, Russia has attacked Ukraine’s electricity and water supplies almost every week, while its ground forces have struggled to hold ground and advance. Mayor Vitali Klitschko warned of a power outage in the capital, asking people to stock up on water and charge their electronic devices.

In the south-eastern district of Kyiv in Bortnichi, at least one house was demolished as a result of the explosion, and the doors, roofs and windows of several other neighboring houses were also knocked out.

Yana Denisenko rummaged through broken glass at her grandparents’ house to collect personal belongings. Although she does not live there, she arrived immediately after the explosion and found her injured mother, sister and 14-year-old niece in ambulances.

Denisenko hugged her tearful grandmother Angelina, who was at work when the explosion occurred.

“I’m scared to see all this, how many mothers are crying?” Angelina said. “I want my children to get well.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the attacks “senseless barbarism.”

“There can be no ‘neutrality’ in the face of such massive war crimes. Pretending to be ‘neutral’ is tantamount to siding with Russia,” Kuleba tweeted.

After more than 10 months of fighting, Russia and Ukraine are locked in a grueling battle of attrition. The Ukrainian military has regained part of the Russian-occupied territory in the northeast and south of the country and continues to resist Russia’s persistent attempts to seize the entire industrial region of Donbass in the east.

At the same time, Moscow has targeted Ukraine’s energy facilities and other key infrastructure in an attempt to weaken the country’s resolve and force it to negotiate on Russia’s terms. However, the time between strikes has increased in recent weeks, leading some commentators to believe that Russia is trying to ration its missile supplies.

The Ukrainian military has reported successfully shooting down incoming Russian missiles and drones in previous attacks, but many cities remain without heat, internet and electricity for hours or days.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said a number of energy facilities were damaged in what he said was the 10th such large-scale attack on his country.

“Russia is trying to deprive Ukrainians of light before the New Year,” Shmyhal wrote in a Telegram message. He said a power outage might be necessary “in some areas”.

About 90% of Lviv was left without electricity, Mayor Andriy Sadovyy wrote on Telegram. According to him, trams and trolleybuses do not work, residents may have water shortages.

Much of the southern city of Odessa and surrounding areas were left without power, Odessa Region Governor Maxim Marchenko said in a video message Thursday evening. According to him, Ukrainian air defense systems shot down 21 Russian missiles, but some hit the infrastructure.

Meanwhile, a telegram channel associated with the press service of the President of Belarus reported that a Ukrainian S-300 air defense missile landed on Thursday morning on the Belarusian territory of Belarus. It said that the rocket could accidentally deviate from the course, and there were no casualties.

The Belarusian Defense Ministry later said that the missile was shot down by a Belarusian air defense system over the western part of the Brest region and fell into a field, according to the state news agency Belta.

Belarus, a close ally of Russia, served as a springboard for the February 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has summoned Ukraine’s ambassador to make a “strong protest,” the report said, demanding Ukraine “carry out a thorough investigation” and “bring those responsible to justice.”

In response, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that Kyiv was “ready to conduct an objective investigation” of the incident and invite “authoritative experts” from abroad to participate in it, with the proviso that these experts must be from countries that do not support Russia. .

This month, the United States said it would provide Ukraine with a Patriot missile battery to boost the country’s defenses. The US and other allies have also pledged to provide energy equipment to help Ukraine resist attacks on its infrastructure.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia is seeking to “destroy critical infrastructure and massacre civilians.”

Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said on Monday that his country wants to hold a “peace” summit at the UN within two months, with Secretary General António Guterres as mediator. He said Russia should face a war crimes tribunal before his country starts direct talks with Moscow, but other countries should feel free to engage with the Russians.

Commenting on Thursday’s summit proposal, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called it “delusional” and “empty”, calling the proposal “a publicity stunt by Washington that is trying to portray the Kyiv regime as a peacemaker.”

Russian officials have said that any peace plan can only come from Kyiv’s recognition of Russian sovereignty over the regions it illegally annexed from Ukraine in September.

The 10-point peace plan, first presented by Zelensky at the November Group of 20 summit in Bali, includes the full restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the withdrawal of Russian troops, the release of all prisoners, a tribunal for those responsible for the aggression, and security guarantees for Ukraine.

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