Russia hits energy targets in Ukraine, showing need for more air defenses

KYIV — Russia launched a massive missile and drone attack on Ukrainian cities early Friday that destroyed energy infrastructure, caused power blackouts in different regions and killed several people — highlighting the country’s urgent need for stronger air defenses outside Kyiv.

The strikes, which hit Ukraine’s largest hydroelectric power plant in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, amounted to “the largest attack on the Ukrainian energy sector in recent times,” Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that the strikes showed that Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv, in the northeast, urgently need Patriot air defense systems to protect infrastructure and civilians as Ukraine waits for more Western aid, including $60 billion blocked in Congress by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).

Ukraine has long requested more air defense to protect major cities from such attacks. Defending Kharkiv — just 19 miles from the Russian border — is especially complicated because missiles can travel so quickly from inside Russia that even advanced air defense systems would struggle to respond in time.

“There are no delays in Russian missiles, as in aid packages to our state,” Zelensky said. “Shaheds do not have indecision, like some politicians,” he continued, referring to the Iranian drones that Russia regularly launches at Ukraine. “It is important to understand the cost of delays and delayed decisions.”

Early Friday, 15 blasts were heard in Kharkiv, and power and water supplies were cut off, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said. The strike left the city in a total blackout — meaning even the siren system that warns residents about incoming air attacks was not functioning. Instead, air raid alarms would be sent directly to mobile devices. Police and other emergency officials would also walk the streets with loudspeakers to announce any alarms, officials said.

Traffic lights and emergency service phones also were not working, although new numbers have been shared for civilians in need of assistance, officials said.

The strikes in Zaporizhzhia also struck a trolley bus.

“Even last winter, the attacks on our energy system were not as big as last night,” said Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the chief executive of Ukrenergo, the state energy supplier.

The attack caused power outages in the Dnipropetrovsk region, where 1,060 miners were working underground at coal mining facilities run by Ukrainian energy conglomerate DTEK. All work has been halted, and most of the miners have since been evacuated, the company said Friday.

The strikes came just as warmer weather has begun to set in across Ukraine. Although Russia launched some attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure this winter, such attacks were less common and less damaging than the year before. Friday’s attack followed another large missile assault directed at Kyiv early Thursday, which caused some damage to local infrastructure but was largely deflected by the capital’s air defense systems.

On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that although Russia still legally considers the war in Ukraine to be a “special military operation,” the involvement of Western countries in supporting Ukraine has pushed Russia to “a state of war.”

“De facto, it turned into a war for us after the collective West has been increasing its level of involvement in the conflict more and more,” Peskov said.

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