Russia has used Iranian-made drones to target energy infrastructure in and around the port city of Odessa, leaving more than 1.5 million people without power, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday.
“The situation in the Odessa region is very difficult,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address posted on his Telegram channel. “After the nighttime attack by Iranian drones, Odessa and other towns and villages in the region are in the dark.”
Full restoration of electricity could take up to three months, Sergey Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odessa regional military administration, said in a message on his Telegram channel.
He added that the administration had “joined forces” with energy companies “to ensure that electricity reaches the homes of every citizen of our country in the coming days.”
Elsewhere in Ukraine, Zelenskyy said, power cuts continued in several cities, including the capital Kyiv.
Russian forces have pounded Ukrainian towns and villages with missiles and drones in recent weeks, damaging power plants, water supplies and other civilian targets, in a bitter war that is nearing its end. 10 months.
The devastating strikes have plunged the country into darkness and put a strain on the health system, already battered by years of corruption, mismanagement, the Covid-19 pandemic.
Planned operations have been postponed; patient records were unavailable due to internet outages; and sometimes doctors performed surgeries with only a flashlight.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied it was targeting civilians.
Since invading Ukraine in February, Iran has sold several hundred unmanned aerial vehicles to Russia in exchange for an “unprecedented level” of military and technical support from Moscow, NBC News told Friday. top Biden administration officials.
The White House previously said it believed Iran was supplying drones to Russia for use in Ukraine, but the relationship between the two nations has blossomed into ‘a full defense partnership’ with weapons and military expertise flowing back and forth, officials said.
Their comments were echoed by Britain’s Ministry of Defence, which said at an intelligence press briefing on Sunday that “Iran’s support for the Russian military is likely to grow in the coming months.” and that Russia was “trying to get more weapons, including hundreds of ballistic missiles”. ”
If Russia gets its hands on next-generation drones from Iran, it would make things worse for Ukraine, Frank Ledwidge, senior lecturer in law and strategy at the University of Portsmouth, told NBC News on Sunday.
Right now, he said, most drones “get shot down” and “only 10 or 20 percent of them get through depending on who you believe.” But he said the next generation “is far more capable, longer range, faster and actually designed to evade Israeli air defences.”
Meanwhile, Russian forces continued their campaign in the east and effectively turned the long-sought town of Bakhmut into “burnt ruins”, Zelenskyy said in his video address.
Bakhmut has been hotly contested for months, with Russia making little progress in the region despite an influx of troops and rocket bombardment.
Although this can damage Ukrainian supply lines, it also leads to Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, two of the most heavily fortified strongholds.
“It’s reminiscent of some of those World War I stocks, where a position becomes important because an investment has been made to take it rather than its inherent value,” Ledwidge said.
In the southeast, Ukraine struck the occupied strategically important city of Melitopol, exiled Ukrainian mayor Ivan Fedorov said in a post on Telegram, adding that there were hundreds of Russian casualties.
The strikes were launched by US-supplied HIMARS missiles, Yevgeny Balitsky, the region’s Russian governor, said in his own Telegram. He added that a “leisure centre”, where people dined, was hit on Saturday evening.
NBC News could not verify any of these claims.
“The next Ukrainian offensive will be in this direction to recapture Melitopol and strike towards Berdyansk,” Ledwidge said. He added that this would help Ukrainian forces cut off supplies to Crimea, which Russia uses as a launching pad for its offensives and missile strikes.