Civilians evacuated from Kherson disembark a ferry as they arrive in the town of Oleshky, on October 22, 2022. Image Credit: REUTERS

Kyiv: Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure was extensively damaged on Saturday as Russian troops delivered another large-scale wave of missile strikes, leaving 1.5 million or more people temporarily without power.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had launched a “massive attack” overnight, with some 36 missiles fired, most of them intercepted but some that hit their marks.

They also follow the appointment of a new commander of Russia’s forces in Ukraine, Air Force General Sergei Surovikin, named to the post two days before the initial big power-plant strikes.

On Saturday, regions ranging from Volyn in the Ukraine’s west to Zaporizhzhia in the southeast reported strikes on power facilities Saturday.

Air alarms, indicating possible missiles in the vicinity, sounded from the Transcarpathia region in the southwest to Kharkiv, more than 1,000 kilometers to the northeast, to occupied Kherson.

At least 18 long-range missiles were reportedly shot down. Ukrainian officials, including Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, continue to put out urgent calls to allies for better air defense systems.

Many regions suffered blackouts, and several will also have water supplies cut off temporarily, authorities said. By late afternoon some cities, including Mykolaiv, which has been targeted by Russia for months, had the power back on, its governor said.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Ukrainian city of Kherson told civilians on Saturday they should leave immediately because of the tense military situation.

Thousands of civilians have been leaving for days across the Dnipro River after warnings about a Ukrainian offensive to recapture the city. The latest warning was delivered with renewed urgency.

“Take care of the safety of your family and friends! Do not forget documents, money, valuables and clothes,” the authorities said.

At Oleshky on the opposite bank of the Dnipro, Reuters saw people arriving by river boat from Kherson, loaded with boxes, bags and pets. One woman carried a toddler under one arm and a dog under the other.

Some boats were loaded with vegetables and pallets of food.

Staff from Russia’s emergency ministry carried elderly people and children in prams from the vessels. Families then waited to board buses to Russian-annexed Crimea.

“I really didn’t want to (leave), I’m still in work,” one resident told Reuters. “We wanted to stay here in the region, but now we don’t know.” The battle for Kherson, which has been under Russian control for almost the whole of the eight-month war, appears to be reaching a critical juncture.

Ukraine has imposed an information blackout from the Kherson front, but Russian commander General Sergei Surovikin said this week the situation in Kherson was “already difficult” and Russia was “not ruling out difficult decisions” there.

In a briefing on Saturday, the Russian defence ministry said its forces had repelled a Ukrainian attempt to break through its line of control in the Kherson region.