Russia in a ‘state of war’ in Ukraine, says Kremlin

Russia admitted two years into its invasion of Ukraine on Friday that it was “in a state of war,” as it launched a massive wave of missile and drone attacks on its neighbour’s territory.

Emergency services work at the scene of a building that was damaged by a Russian drone attack in Vinnytsia, Ukraine,(AP)

Russia fired almost 90 missiles and more than 60 Iranian-designed kamikaze drones, damaging “dozens” of energy facilities, including power stations, in what Ukrainian officials said was an attempt to cripple the country’s electricity and heating network.

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At least three people were killed and more than 20 injured, according to the interior ministry and local officials.

“We are in a state of war,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview to a pro-Kremlin newspaper, published Friday.

The admission marks an escalation in official language used to describe the conflict, which the Kremlin initially referred to as a “special military operation”.

“Yes, it started as a special military operation, but as soon as this bunch was formed there, when the collective West became a participant on Ukraine’s side, for us it already became a war,” Peskov said.

Moscow often accuses the West of direct participation in the conflict by supplying Ukraine with weapons.

Russian attacks hit at least nine regions — from Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia near the front lines to Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, hundreds of kilometres away from the fighting.

‘Largest on record’

Ukraine’s state-run power grid, Ukrenergo, said: “This morning’s Russian attack on Ukraine’s energy system was the largest on record.”

“Dozens of power system facilities have been damaged,” including thermal and hydroelectric power plants, as well as major and regional power lines and emergency blackouts had been put place in seven regions, it said.

“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,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

He appealed once again on Friday for more Western arms, blasting political “indecision” that he said was costing Ukrainian lives.

Ukraine has struggled with shortages of both air defences to protect its skies and ammunition on the ground, as a vital $60-billion military aid package is currently held up in the US Congress.

“Russian missiles do not have delays, as do aid packages to our country. The ‘Shahed’ (drones) have no indecision, like some politicians. It is important to understand the cost of delays and postponed decisions,” he said.

“We need air defence to protect people, infrastructure, homes and dams. Our partners know exactly what is needed. They can definitely support us… Life must be protected from these non-humans from Moscow.”

Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 37 of the 88 missiles fired overnight and 55 of 63 drones.

The strikes left around 700,000 consumers without electricity in the northeastern Kharkiv region, governor Oleg Synegubov said.

“The goal is not just to damage, but to try again, like last year, to cause a large-scale failure of the country’s energy system,” said energy minister German Galushchenko.

Last winter Russia launched a daily barrage of aerial attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, plunging millions into darkness and leaving them without heating in sub-zero temperatures for hours.

But the country’s energy network has largely held up this year.

Despite “temporary” blackouts being put in place in some regions, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said Friday: “The situation in the energy sector is under control, and there is no need for blackouts across the country.”

Emergency electricity was being supplied from Romania, Slovakia and Poland, Galushchenko said.

‘Extremely dangerous situation’

One of the strikes Friday severed one of two power lines supplying the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southeast Ukraine, energy minister Galushchenko said.

The facility, Europe’s largest nuclear energy site, was seized by Russian troops in the first days of the war but is powered by Ukrainian lines.

“This situation is extremely dangerous and risks sparking an emergency situation”, said Ukraine’s atomic energy operator Energoatom.

The plant has suffered multiple blackouts since the beginning of the war, falling back on emergency diesel generators and safety systems.

“In case of their failure, a threat of a nuclear and radiation accident will emerge,” said Energoatom.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is monitoring the situation at the site, said a back-up power line was still working.

A Russian missile also hit a trolleybus at the Dnipro hydroelectric station, officials said.

Photos on social media showed a fire raging on the dam and the burnt-out carcass of the vehicle.

In Russia, a woman was killed and others wounded in a strike on Friday on Russia’s Belgorod, said the governor of the region along the border with Ukraine, where Kyiv has stepped up attacks.

And Moscow’s FSB security service said it had arrested seven pro-Ukrainian partisans in the capital, the latest in a flurry of similar cases.

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