Russia unleashed a new missile onslaught on Ukraine’s battered energy grid Wednesday, robbing cities of power and some of water and public transport, too, compounding the hardship of winter for millions.
The aerial mauling of power supplies also took nuclear plants and internet links offline and spilled blackouts into neighbour Moldova.
Multiple regions reported attacks in quick succession and cascading outages. Ukraine’s Energy Ministry said supplies were cut to “the vast majority of electricity consumers.”
Lviv’s trams and trolleybuses stopped running as the city in western Ukraine lost both power and water, the mayor said. All of Kyiv lost water, the capital’s mayor said. Power also went out and public transport stopped in Kharkiv, the mayor of that northeastern city, Ukraine’s second-largest, said.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy instructed Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations to request an urgent Security Council meeting.
Addressing it later on Wednesday, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine will put forward a resolution condemning “any forms of energy terror.” Referring to Russia’s likely veto, he said, “it’s nonsense that the veto right is secured for the party that wages this war, this criminal war.”
“We cannot be hostage to one international terrorist,” Zelenskyy said, saying the council must act.
He also invited the U.N. to send experts to examine and evaluate Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.
Three people were killed and 11 wounded in a strike in Kyiv, city authorities said. Another four people were killed and 35 wounded in the wider Kyiv region, its governor said.
“I was going up the escalator, I heard an explosion. Then the electricity suddenly disappeared,” said Kyiv subway passenger Oleksii Kolpachov. “When I got out of the subway, there was a column of smoke.”
Russia has been pounding the power grid and other facilities with missiles and exploding drones for weeks, wreaking damage faster than it can be repaired. Strikes had already damaged around half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Zelenskyy said before the latest barrage, and rolling power outages had become the horrid new normal for millions.
Ukrainian officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is hoping that the misery of unheated and unlit homes in winter’s cold and dark will turn public opinion against a continuation of the war — but say it’s instead strengthening Ukrainian resolve.
Ukraine’s Air Force said Russia launched around 70 cruise missiles and 51 were shot down, as were five exploding drones. The afternoon timing of the barrage — as was also the case last week — left workers toiling into the winter darkness to restore supplies.
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the Security Council that Moscow is carrying out “strikes against infrastructure in response to the unbridled flow of weapons to Ukraine and the reckless appeals of Kyiv to defeat Russia.”
In Kyiv, a city of 3 million, the administration said water and heating would only return to residential buildings on Thursday morning.
Late Wednesday and well after dark, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office said that Kyiv and over a dozen regions, including Lviv and Odesa in the south, had been reconnected to the power grid.
Moldova, with Soviet-era energy systems interconnected with Ukraine, also reported massive power outages - for the second time this month. President Maia Sandu accused Moscow of plunging the country of 2.6 million into darkness and the foreign minister summoned Russia’s ambassador for explanations.
“We cannot trust a regime that leaves us in the dark and cold, that intentionally kills people, out of a simple desire to keep other peoples in poverty and humiliation,” Sandu said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called Russia’s waves of strikes in recent weeks “intolerable” and said: “This bombing terror against the civilian population must stop, and immediately.”
U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo said at the Security Council meeting on Wednesday the U.N. demands that Russia immediately stop the attacks, which violate international humanitarian law, stressing “there must be accountability for an violations of the laws of war.”
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that Putin is “weaponizing winter to inflict intense suffering on the Ukraine people.”