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Russia attacks Ukrainian electrical power facilities, including major hydroelectric plant

It was one of the largest assault on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since the outbreak of the war and it caused a fire at the station that supplies electricity to the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power installation

Rescue team works at a site of residential buildings destroyed by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine March 22, 2024.
Rescue team works at a site of residential buildings destroyed by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine March 22, 2024.Stringer (REUTERS)

Russia attacked electrical power facilities in much of Ukraine, including the country’s largest hydroelectric plant, causing widespread outages and killing at least five people, officials said Friday. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said more than 60 drones and about 90 rockets were used in the attack.

The attack came a day after Russia launched 31 missiles in a single attack on the capital. It was the largest assault on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure this year and one of the largest since the outbreak of the war, according to Ukrainian authorities.

“Even last winter, attacks on our energy system were not as large as they were this night,” said the head of energy utility Ukrenergo, Volodymyr Kudrytskyi.

Last winter, Russia deliberately targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, resulting in frequent blackouts across the country. Many had warned that Russia might repeat this strategy ahead of this winter. But instead, Russia has launched massive missile and drone attacks primarily directed at Ukraine’s defense industry.

Every large-scale air attack depletes Ukraine’s capabilities to repel Russian missiles. Zelenskiy has been urging Ukraine’s Western allies for weeks to provide additional air defense systems and ammunition amid delays in aid from the U.S.

“With Russian missiles, there are no delays, like with aid packages to our state. Shaheds don’t have indecisiveness, as do some politicians. It is important to understand the cost of delays and postponed decisions,” Zelenskiy said, referring to Iranian-made Shahed drones, which are widely used by Russia in the war.

The attacks caused a fire at the Dnipro Hydroelectric Station, which supplies electricity to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power installation.

The main external power line to the plant was cut off, International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi said early Friday, but Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator said it was restored several hours later.

The plant is occupied by Russian troops, and fighting around the plant has been a constant concern because of the potential for a nuclear accident.

The dam at the hydroelectric station was not in danger of breaching, the country’s hydroelectric authority said. A dam breach could not only disrupt supplies to the nuclear plant but would potentially cause severe flooding similar to what occurred last year when a major dam at Kakhovka further down the Dnieper collapsed.

Three people were killed and at least eight injured in the Russian attack, said Zaporizhzhia regional Gov. Ivan Fedorov.

Attacks on energy facilities in the Kharkiv region caused blackouts in the country’s second-largest city and disrupted critical air-raid siren systems. Regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said police would inform residents of possible air raids through loudspeakers and walkie-talkies and that alerts would be sent to cellular phones.

Other attacks were reported in areas of western Ukraine far from the front lines. Two people died in the Khmelnytskyi region, according to the Internal Affairs Ministry.

The power outages left 1,060 miners trapped in the Dnipropetrovsk region and an evacuation was underway, according to private energy company DTEK.

“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. Russia is fighting against the ordinary life of people,” Zelenskiy said Friday on the Telegram messaging app.

Russian officials said Friday that one person died and at least three were injured in Ukrainian shelling of areas near the border.

The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said a woman was killed when a shell hit nearby while she was walking her dogs and that two others were injured. The town of Tetkino in the Kursk region was shelled, injuring one person, said Gov. Roman Starovoit.

Both regions have been subject to shelling and drone attacks in recent weeks and officials have said that attempts by Ukrainian fighters to cross into Russian territory have been repelled.

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