A missile strike severely damaged a key power plant in Ukraine’s capital, the country’s grid operator said Saturday, as the Russian military scrambled to cut power to remote populated areas while fending off Ukrainian counterattacks in occupied regions.
The governor of the Kyiv region, Oleksiy Kuleba, said that no one was killed or injured in the attack on the unidentified object. Power transmission company Ukrenergo said repair crews were working to restore power, but warned residents of possible further outages.
After a truck bomb blast damaged a bridge linking Russia to the annexed Crimean peninsula a week ago, the Kremlin launched what is believed to be its biggest coordinated missile attack on Ukraine since the initial invasion of the country in late February
This week’s large-scale retaliatory strikes, which included the use of self-destructing explosive drones from Iran, killed dozens of people. The strikes hit residential buildings as well as civilian infrastructure such as power plants in Kiev, Lviv in western Ukraine and other cities that have seen relatively few strikes in recent months.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, on Saturday called on residents of the Kyiv area and people in three neighboring regions to reduce energy consumption in the evening hours of peak demand.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Moscow saw no need for additional mass attacks, but that his military would continue with selective strikes. He said that of the 29 targets the Russian military planned to destroy in this week’s strikes, seven were not damaged and would be gradually removed.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, interpreted Putin’s remarks as an attempt to counter criticism from pro-war Russian bloggers who “largely praised the continued attacks on Ukrainian cities but warned that a short campaign would be ineffective.”
“Putin knew that he would not be able to withstand high-intensity missile strikes for long due to a dwindling arsenal of high-precision missiles,” the think tank said.
Russian diplomat Konstantin Vorontsov told a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly’s arms control committee on Friday that Russia would provide its ally Belarus with short-range Iskander-M missiles that could carry a nuclear or conventional warhead and modernize some of Belarus’ Su-25s. land-based aircraft to carry nuclear weapons.
Vorontsov explained the move by citing Moscow’s concerns about the possibility of US nuclear weapons being deployed in Poland near the borders of Belarus and Russia.
He emphasized that Russia, in accordance with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, has no intention of installing nuclear warheads in Belarusian weapons systems or transferring nuclear warheads to the territory of Belarus.
Regions of southern Ukraine that Putin illegally designated as Russian territory last month remained the focus of fighting on Saturday. Ukrainian forces continued their campaign to capture the largely Russian-occupied Kherson region.
Kiril Stremousov, the deputy head of the Moscow-appointed administration in the region, reminded residents that they could evacuate to Crimea and cities in southwestern Russia as Ukrainian forces try to advance on the regional capital.
After concerns in the region, Kremlin-backed leaders asked civilians on Thursday to evacuate to ensure their safety and to give Russian troops more maneuverability, Moscow offered free accommodation to residents who agreed to leave.
Ukrainian troops tried to advance south along the banks of the Dnieper River but failed, Stremousov said.
“Defense lines worked, and the situation remained under the full control of the Russian military,” he wrote on his messaging app channel.
Major General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said the army had destroyed five crossings on the Inhulets River, another route Ukrainian fighters could take to advance towards the Kherson region.
Konashenkov claimed that Russian troops also blocked Ukrainian attempts to break through Russian defenses near Liman, a town in the annexed Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine that Ukrainians recaptured two weeks ago in a significant defeat for the Kremlin.
In the Zaporozhye region bordering Kherson, Governor Oleksandr Starukh said the Russian military had carried out attacks with Iranian kamikaze drones and S-300 missiles. Some experts said the Russian military’s use of long-range missiles may reflect a lack of dedicated precision weapons to engage ground targets.
North and east of Kherson, Russian shelling killed two civilians in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Governor Valentin Resnichenko said. He said that ten residential buildings, several shops and a transport facility were damaged by the shelling of the city of Nikopol, which is located across the Dnieper from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.
Fighting near the nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, was a constant concern during the nearly eight-month war. The plant temporarily lost its last remaining external source of electricity twice in the past week, fueling fears that the reactors could eventually overheat and cause a catastrophic radiation leak.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi reported that such fears were somewhat allayed late Friday as Ukrainian engineers succeeded after several weeks in restoring backup transmission lines that can serve as a “buffer” in the event of further war-related outages.
“Working in very challenging conditions, operational staff at the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant are doing everything in their power to strengthen its fragile off-site power situation,” Grossi said. “The restoration of the backup power connection is a positive step in this regard, although the overall nuclear safety and security situation remains uncertain.”
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