Russia hits Ukraine’s power grid with a ‘massive’ attack on a day marking the WWII defeat of Nazism

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces unleashed a nighttime barrage of more than 50 cruise missiles and explosive drones at Ukraine’s power grid Wednesday, targeting a wide area in what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called a “massive” attack on the day the country celebrates the defeat of Nazism in World War II.

The bombardment blasted targets in seven Ukrainian regions, including the Kyiv area and parts of the south and west, damaging homes and the country’s rail network, authorities said. Three people, including an 8-year-old girl, were injured, according to officials.

Russia has repeatedly pounded Ukraine’s energy infrastructure during the war that is stretching into its third year and has claimed thousands of lives. By taking out the power, the Kremlin’s forces aim to rob Ukrainian manufacturing of its energy supply, especially military plants, and crush public morale.

Russian attacks have damaged nearly half of Ukraine’s power infrastructure since the start of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, officials say. The damage is estimated at $12.5 billion, with $1 billion inflicted during the past two weeks, according to the chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament’s Committee on Energy and Housing Services, Andrii Herus.

The mass barrages also drain Ukrainian air defenses of ammunition as Kyiv’s depleted forces await delivery of the latest batch of promised Western military support. Ukrainian officials have been pleading for more NATO-standard air defense systems, such as Patriots.

Zelenskyy noted that Wednesday’s attacks occurred on the day that Ukraine observes the end of European fighting in World War II and equated Ukraine’s current struggle with that conflict, saying on social platform X that “only a united free world” can stop Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine last year changed the date of the Day of Remembrance and Victory over Nazism to avoid it coinciding with Russia’s own Victory Day commemorations on May 9.

Russia pummeled Ukraine’s energy infrastructure during the “blackout winter” of 2022-23. In March, it launched a new wave of attacks, one of which completely destroyed the Trypilska power plant near Kyiv, one of the country’s biggest.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has framed the attacks as retaliation for Ukrainian long-range strikes on Russian oil refineries. On Wednesday, a Ukrainian attack hit an oil terminal, injuring five workers and starting a fire, Russia-appointed authorities in the partially occupied Luhansk region said.

Russian bombardments, though frequent, have become less regular in recent weeks, and Ukrainian officials suspect Moscow is stockpiling resources ahead of a major battlefield offensive that could come within weeks.

The 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line has changed little since the early months of the war, but Russia has recently made small but steady gains in some areas as Ukraine battles with a lack of manpower and a shortage of weapons.

National electrical grid operator Ukrenergo said facilities were hit in the Vinnytsia, Zaporizhzhia, Kirovohrad, Poltava and Ivano-Frankivsk regions.

Two energy facilities were hit in the Lviv region, which is in the country’s far west and distant from the fighting’s front lines, according to regional Gov. Maksym Kozytskyi.

DTEK, Ukraine’s biggest private energy supplier, said the attack “seriously damaged” equipment at three of its thermal power plants.

The attack was the fifth in the last six weeks targeting the company’s facilities, DTEK said. Overall, since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, the company’s assets have come under attack nearly 180 times, injuring 51 workers and killing three, it said.

Russia launched 55 missiles and 21 Shahed drones overnight, the Ukrainian air force said. Air defenses downed 39 of the missiles and 20 of the drones, Ukrainian air force commander Mykola Oleshchuk said.

Russian forces also damaged the railway station building and train tracks in Kherson, national railway operator Ukrzaliznytsia said.

Also Wednesday, five people including three children were injured in an attack that struck an educational facility in northeastern Kharkiv, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on social media. City Mayor Ihor Terekhov said one of the children was in critical condition.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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