On Wednesday, a hail of Russian missiles hit Ukraine, killing at least six civilians and forcing nuclear power plants to shut down as electricity was cut off in Kiev and several other regions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the damage to critical infrastructure caused by Russian airstrikes – the latest in an ongoing campaign that threatens to leave millions of people facing a cold winter with severely limited access to heating and light.
“The murder of civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure are acts of terror,” Zelensky said. “Ukraine will continue to demand a strong world response to these crimes.”
Three nuclear power plants have been forced to shut down their reactors, Ukraine’s national energy company Energoatom reported, while officials reported power outages in Kiev and regions across the country, including Kharkiv, where the mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city said transportation public stopped working.
Meanwhile, electricity was cut off in half of Moldova, a neighboring country whose power grid remains connected to Ukraine’s power grid, and experienced a similar outage last Tuesday.
Four people were killed and 34 injured in the strikes in Kiev, including five children, regional governor Oleksy Kuleba said, while the city’s mayor Vitaly Klitschko said a 17-year-old girl was among the dead when a shell hit an apartment block.
“I was sitting in my apartment and I heard an explosion. My windows in the hall, kitchen and bedroom were blown open by the blast wave,” Yuri Achymenko, 55, who lives in an apartment building across the street from the one that was hit, told Reuters.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy chief of the Ukrainian president’s office, said that a 73-year-old man was killed in the city of Kherson, just over a week after Moscow’s commanders withdrew their troops from the southern capital of the region and crossed the Dnieper River.
Ukraine’s defense ministry said six civilians were killed in missile attacks across the country.
Energoatom said nuclear reactors in Pivdenukransk in the south and power plants in Rivne and Khmelnitsky in the west were shut down, while Europe’s largest nuclear complex in Zaporozhye remained offline due to nearby shelling, which both sides blamed.
Ukraine’s energy ministry said most thermal and hydroelectric power plants were also forced to shut down. As a result, the vast majority of electricity consumers in Ukrainian-controlled areas of the country were cut off, it said.
By 6:00 p.m., electricity in half of the western city of Lviv was restored after repairs, the mayor of the city said.
Earlier, Russian missiles hit a maternity hospital in the Zaporizhia region overnight, killing a baby, the region’s governor said in a statement on Telegram.
Ukraine’s top military commander, General Valery Zaluzhny, said air defenses shot down 51 of the 67 Russian cruise missiles fired, including 20 of the 30 aimed at Kyiv.
Moscow has been openly attacking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since October, following an attack on Russia’s key bridge to Crimea, which followed a massive loss of captured territory in crushing defeats for Kremlin troops on the battlefield.
Ukraine says the attacks amount to war crimes, deliberately intended to harm civilians and break the spirit of a defending nation during what is sure to be a difficult winter.
Zelensky remained defiant despite the government’s assessment that nearly half of Ukraine’s energy system had been damaged. He said, “We will restore everything and we will get through it all because we are steadfast people.”
On Tuesday, he announced that special “invincibility centers” would be set up across the country, which would provide electricity, heat, water, internet, mobile telephony and a pharmacy free of charge.
European allies agreed to donate power generators to keep Ukraine’s hospitals, schools and other essential facilities running.
Fighting continued in the east, with Russia pressing into territory claimed by its proxy forces since 2014, and Ukraine reporting ferocious attacks and continuous shelling in the Donetsk region over the past 24 hours.