Russia launches massive air attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure

Written by on March 22, 2024

Andre Luis Alves/Getty Images

(LONDON) — Russia unleashed a massive aerial attack on Friday in what Ukrainian officials said was the largest and most destructive assault on its energy infrastructure since the start of the war.

Over 150 missiles and drones were involved in the bombardment, striking targets across the Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian air force, knocking out power to swathes of the country and badly damaging its largest hydroelectric power station. It was the second largest aerial attack on Ukraine since Russia began its invasion two years ago, the air force said.

At least three people were killed in the assault, and 15 others were injured, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office.

Ukraine’s military said air defenses destroyed around 90 of the projectiles but more than a third still managed to get through.

The strikes forced emergency shut downs of electricity in at least seven regions, including Odesa, Dnipro, Poltava, Zaporizhzhia and Kirovohrad, according to Ukraine’s state energy company. Officials in Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, said it was entirely without power following the attacks.

“The morning attack by the Russians on the energy system of Ukraine was the largest ever,” Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the head of Ukrenergo said in a statement.

Kharkiv’s mayor Ihor Terekhov said it was also the largest attack on the city since the start of the war, with at least 20 missiles fired into energy infrastructure, calling the damage “too severe.”

Missiles also hit Ukraine’s largest hydroelectric power station, the Dnipro dam in Zaporizhzhia, setting off a huge fire there and causing critical damage, according to Ukrainian officials.

“We are losing the station,” Ihor Syrota, head of Ukraine’s state hydro-power company, Ukrhydroenergo, told RFE/RL in a live interview, saying that two missiles had struck the power plant.

Ukrainian officials said the structural integrity of the dam itself was not in danger, but local authorities warned people to stock up on water in case of possible shortages.

Friday’s attack involved more than 75 missiles, including seven advanced, hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, according to Ukraine’s air force.

The attack came as Ukraine is suffering increasingly severe shortages of air defense ammunition, amid delays in Western supplies and with more U.S. support blocked in Congress. A day earlier, Russia launched its largest missile attack on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in months.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday said the attacks showed the cost of the delays in Western support.

Russian drones “don’t have indecision,” Zelensky said in a video address. “It’s important to understand the price of delays and decisions put off. Our partners definitely know what is necessary. They definitely can support. These decisions are needed.”

A new $60 billion military aid package that would include funding for air defense is currently stalled in Congress, blocked by hard right Republicans close to former President Donald Trump. The bill was approved by a bipartisan majority in the Senate in December but Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has refused to put it to a vote.

Russia has largely avoided striking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure for the past few months, instead focusing on military production targets. But Ukraine increasingly faces a choice of using its limited air defenses to protect large cities and civilian infrastructure or deploy it to the frontline, where Russia is regaining air superiority.

Ukraine has used the advanced handful of Patriot air defense batteries provided by the U.S. and European countries to shield Kyiv, but does not have enough to protect key cities elsewhere.

Ukrainian officials on Friday also defended recent Ukrainian attacks on Russia’s oil industry, following reports that U.S. officials have urged Ukraine to halt them over fears it is driving up oil prices globally.

Ukrainian drones have repeatedly struck major Russian oil refineries in recent weeks, in an apparent campaign to undermine Russia’s income for its energy sector, a crucial source of revenue for the Kremlin.

The Financial Times on Friday reported that U.S. officials have warned officials at Ukraine’s intelligence service the attacks should stop.

But Ukrainian deputy prime minister Olha Stefanishyna told a security forum Friday the strikes were legitimate.

“These are absolutely legal goals from a military point of view. We understand the appeals of American partners. At the same time, we are fighting with the capabilities, resources, and practices that we have today,” she said at the Kyiv Security Forum.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Reader's opinions

Leave a Reply

Current track