KYIV — Critical infrastructure across Ukraine was pounded by more than a dozen Russian missiles on Saturday, the Ukrainian air force said, with several regions reporting strikes on energy facilities and power outages.
At the same time Russian occupation authorities in the Ukrainian city of Kherson urged civilians to leave immediately citing what they called a tense military situation as Ukraine’s forces advance.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram app regarding Russian attacks on infrastructure that began overnight: “The enemy launched a massive attack: 36 rockets, most of which were shot down,”
The air force command earlier had said 33 missiles had been fired at Ukraine on Saturday morning, adding that 18 of them had been shot down.
Since Oct. 10, Russia has launched a series of devastating salvos at Ukraine’s power infrastructure, which have hit at least half of its thermal power generation and up to 40% of the entire system.
Shortly after daybreak on Saturday, local officials in regions across Ukraine began reporting strikes on energy facilities and power outages as engineers scrambled to restore the network. Governors advised residents to stock up on water in case of disruptions to supply.
Parts of Kyiv suffered power cuts stretching into the early evening. In one central area of the capital, shops were closed and traffic lights were off, leaving motorists to navigate busy junctions by themselves.
Reuters witnesses in the southern city of Mykolaiv reported a power cut lasting several hours, disrupting mobile phone signals on some networks.
In the southeastern city of Nikopol, which is regularly shelled from Russian positions across the Dnipro river, local authorities warned that air raid sirens would be switched off as a result of power cuts, and that instead emergency vehicles driving around the city would warn of incoming aerial threats.
Presidential adviser Kyrylo Tymoshenko said that as of Saturday afternoon, more than a million people across Ukraine were without power, including some 672,000 in the western region of Khmelnytskyi.
After a first wave of missiles early in the morning, air raid sirens rang out again nationwide at 11.15 a.m. local time (0815 GMT).
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said Moscow wanted to create a new wave of refugees into Europe with the strikes, while foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said they constituted genocide.
“Deliberate strikes on Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure are part of Russia’s genocide of Ukrainians,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
Moscow has acknowledged targeting energy infrastructure but denies targeting civilians.
State grid operator Ukrenergo said the attacks targeted transmission infrastructure in western Ukraine, but that power supply restrictions were being put in place in 10 regions across the country, including in the capital, Kyiv.
“The scale of damage is comparable or may exceed the consequences of the attacks (between) October 10-12,” Ukrenergo wrote on the Telegram app, referring to the first wave of strikes on the power system last week.
Meanwhile, the deputy head of Kyiv’s city administration, Petro Panteleev, warned Russian strikes could leave Ukraine’s capital without power and heat for “several days or weeks.”
“This possibility exists…we have to understand and remember this,” he told Ukrainian news outlet Ekonomichna Pravda.
Thousands of civilians have left Kherson in recent days across the Dnipro River after warnings of a looming Ukrainian offensive to recapture the city, but Saturday’s warning was delivered with renewed urgency.
“Due to the tense situation at the front, the increased danger of massive shelling of the city and the threat of terrorist attacks, all civilians must immediately leave the city and cross to the left (east) bank of the Dnipro!” Russian occupation authorities said a statement posted on Telegram. (Reporting by Max Hunder in Kyiv, additional reporting by Felix Hoske in Kyiv and Valentyn Ogirenko in Mykolaiv; editing by Kirsten Donovan and Jason Neely)