- Strikes evoke memories of Russian air strikes last winter
- Power supply disrupted in five regions – grid operator
- At least 18 people wounded, says Kyiv
By Olena Harmash and Tom Balmforth
KYIV, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Russia carried out its biggest missile attack in weeks across Ukraine on Thursday, pounding energy facilities in what officials said appeared to be the first salvo in a new air campaign against the Ukrainian power grid.
Power cuts were reported in five Ukrainian regions in the west, centre and east, reviving memories of multiple air strikes on critical infrastructure last winter that caused sweeping outages for millions of Ukrainians during the bitter cold.
Officials said at least 18 people were wounded in the air strikes, including a 9-year-old girl, and a regional governor said two people were killed in separate overnight Russian shelling.
“Winter is coming. Tonight (Russia) renews missile attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure,” lawmaker Andrii Osadchuk wrote on platform X.
Grid operator Ukrenergo said it was the first Russian attack on power infrastructure in six months, and reported damage to facilities in western and central regions.
“There were partial blackouts in the Rivne, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv regions,” it said on Telegram messenger.
Ukraine has been racing for months to repair infrastructure after attacks last winter damaged nearly half of the country’s energy system and forced grid operators to impose regular rolling power cuts.
This year, Ukraine has better, Western-supplied air defences, but still has the huge challenge of defending against attacks in such a big country.
Russia, which sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022, had focused its air strikes since mid-July on port and grain infrastructure, hampering efforts by Kyiv – a major global grain producer – to export food products.
Many of the attacks have also killed civilians although Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians.
Russia did not comment on the new air strikes, carried out as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visits the United States for talks following the U.N. General Assembly, at which he sought to shore up support for Ukraine.
Moscow says Ukraine has been attacking targets inside Russia as Kyiv presses on with a counteroffensive, and that Ukrainian drones were destroyed over the annexed Crimean peninsula and the Black Sea overnight.
DAMAGE ACROSS UKRAINE
Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said Russia had fired 43 cruise missiles at targets overnight in several waves and that Ukrainian air defences shot down 36 of them.
Loud blasts rocked Kyiv and the surrounding region as dawn was breaking, Reuters witnesses said.
Mayor Vitali Klitschko said seven people, including a girl aged nine, were injured in the capital. Missile debris fell in the city centre and an infrastructure facility and several non-residential buildings were damaged, causing a fire, he said.
Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said a hotel and several shopping kiosks were damaged in Cherkasy in central Ukraine and that seven people were wounded.
The emergency services posted a video on Telegram showing rescuers carrying out an injured man on a stretcher as a fire raged.
The interior ministry and regional officials reported blasts in Cherkasy, Kharkiv, Khmelnytskiy, Rivne, Vinnytsia, Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk regions.
Maksym Kozytskyi, Lviv’s regional governor, said three Russian missiles hit the city of Drohobych in the west, about 60 km (37 miles) from the Polish border. Kozytskiy said an infrastructure facility and warehouses were hit.
In a separate overnight attack, two people were killed by Russian shelling of a dormitory in the southern city of Kherson, governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.
A Ukrainian intelligence source said Ukraine’s SBU security service and navy had struck the Saky air base in Russian-occupied Crimea overnight, inflicting “serious damage”.
The Russian military said it had destroyed 19 Ukrainian drones over Crimea and the Black Sea and three more over other parts of Russia. It gave no details on any casualties or damage.