Ukraine attack Russia
A view of the damage after Russia's air attack on residential building, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, Friday, March 22, 2024. Image Credit: AP

Kyiv: Russia on Friday staged its largest air strike on Ukrainian energy infrastructure of the war, hitting a vast dam, killing at least five people and leaving more than a million others without electricity, Kyiv said.

Ukraine, which has long urged allies to supply more air defences, said its energy system had received emergency power supplies from neighbouring Poland, Romania and Slovakia, as seven of its regions faced blackouts.

The attack by Russia, which vowed last week to punish Kyiv for conducting attacks and strikes during its presidential election, brought back memories of the first winter of the attack when Moscow regularly bombed the power grid.

“Russia is at war against people’s ordinary lives. My condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed in this terror,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on Telegram messenger.

Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians, though the war that began with its full-scale attack in February 2022 has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, the uprooting of millions and the destruction of Ukrainian towns and cities.

Moscow says attacks on Ukraine’s power infrastructure are legitimate strikes aimed at weakening the enemy’s military.

Ukraine’s largest dam, the DniproHES in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, suffered strikes to its hydraulic structures and to the dam itself, state hydropower company Ukrhidroenergo said, adding there was no risk of a breach.

The company’s director Ihor Syrota said both its power blocks and the dam had been damaged. One of the blocks sustained two direct strikes, he said.

“There is currently a fire at the station. Emergency services and energy workers are working on the spot, dealing with the consequences of numerous airstrikes,” the company said.

At least five people were killed, two in the western Khmelnytskyi region and three in Zaporizhzhia including at least one at the dam, according to the local administration and general prosecutor’s office.

Missiles and drones

Russia fired 88 missiles and 63 Shahed drones, of which only 37 and 55 were shot down respectively, the Ukrainian air force said of the attacks concentrated in the regions of Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia.

That represented a worse ratio than usual that could reflect Moscow’s widespread use of ballistic missiles that are harder to down and also the proximity of the targeted regions to Russian-controlled areas.

Some 1.2 million people in at least four regions had been left without power due to the attacks, according to figures posted by presidential aide Oleksiy Kuleba on Telegram. Around 700,000 of those were in the eastern region of Kharkiv alone.

“The goal is not just to damage, but to try again, like last year, to cause a large-scale failure of the country’s energy system,” Energy Minister German Galushchenko wrote on Facebook.

“Russia launched the largest combined attack on the Ukrainian energy system since the beginning of the full-scale invasion,” grid operator UkrEnergo cited their head, Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, as saying. It reported blackouts in seven regions.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said there was work under way to repair power supply in nine regions.

“The world sees the targets of Russian terrorists as clearly as possible: power plants and energy supply lines, a hydroelectric dam, ordinary residential buildings, even a trolleybus,” he said.

Ukraine’s largest private energy company DTEK said some of its thermal power plants had been hit.