Russia launched a massive missile attack on Saturday, targeting critical infrastructure, Ukrainian authorities said, leaving hundreds of thousands of people in central and western parts of the country without electricity.
Using drones and missiles alike, Moscow has intensified its strikes on power stations, water supply systems and other key infrastructure across the country, the latest phase of the war as it nears the eight-month mark.
At least 18 of 33 cruise missiles launched from air and sea were down on Saturday, Ukraine’s air force said in a statement.
“Several rockets” targeting the capital were shot down on Saturday morning, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging service.
Similar reports were made by the governors of six western and central provinces, as well as the southern Odesa region on the Black Sea.
The presidential office said in its morning statement that five explosive-laden drones were downed in the central Cherkasy region southeast of Kyiv.
Ukraine’s state energy company Ukrenergo claimed in a statement that Saturday’s attacks caused damage “comparable to or exceeding the consequences of the attack on 10-12 October” — the strikes the Kremlin conducted in retaliation for the bombing of Crimea’s Kerch bridge.
Government calls on citizens to curb power usage
The western city of Khmelnytskyi, which straddles the Bug river and was home to some 275,000 people before the war, was left with no electricity shortly after local media reported several loud explosions.
The city council urged local residents to store water “in case it’s also gone within an hour” in a social media post on Saturday.
The mayor of Lutsk, a city of 215,000 in Ukraine’s far west, made a similar appeal on Telegram on Saturday. Power in Lutsk had been partially knocked out after Russian missiles slammed into local energy facilities, he said.
The central city of Uman, a key pilgrimage centre for Hasidic Jews which counted some 100,000 residents before the war, was also plunged into darkness after a rocket hit a nearby power station, regional authorities said on Telegram.
In the capital and four surrounding regions, including Cherkasy, rolling blackouts came into effect on Saturday morning in response to the reduced power supplies. Ukrenergo continued to urge all Ukrainians to conserve energy.
Earlier this week, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on consumers to curb their power use between 7 am and 11 am daily and avoid using energy-guzzling appliances such as electric heaters.
Over the past two weeks, Moscow has increased its attacks on key civilian infrastructure across Ukraine.
About 40% of the country’s electric power system has been severely damaged, officials said. Zelenskyy said earlier in the week that 30% of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed since 10 October.