Ukraine rushed to restore power across the country on Thursday, a day after Russia sent a new barrage of missiles to target critical infrastructure, shutting down most of its power plants temporarily and leaving the “vast majority” of the population without electricity.
State energy company Ukrenergo said work was “taking longer than after previous attacks” because Wednesday’s attack targeted power generation facilities and caused a “systemic incident”.
As of Thursday afternoon, electricity had been restored to “all regions”, but individual households were still “gradually connected to the grid”, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, an official in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said on Telegram.
Ukraine’s armed forces said 70 Russian missiles were launched Wednesday afternoon and 51 shot down, along with five attack drones.
The attack killed at least 10 people, including a teenage girl, and “resulted in the temporary shutdown of all nuclear power plants and most thermal and hydroelectric plants”, the energy ministry said. It left much of the country without electricity, affecting heating, water supply and internet access in some areas.
Wednesday was the first time Ukraine’s four nuclear power plants were shut down simultaneously in 40 years, the head of state nuclear energy company Energoatom said in a statement. Petro Kotin said it was a precautionary measure and he expected them to be reconnected on Thursday evening. The three fully functional plants in Ukrainian hands – the occupied Zaporizhzhia plant has not been operating since September – would help supply electricity to the national grid, he said.
Ukraine is heavily dependent on nuclear energy, according to the World Nuclear Association. It has 15 reactors in four power plants which, before Russia’s large-scale invasion in February, produced about half of its electricity.
Russia focused on destroying Ukraine’s energy infrastructure ahead of the harsh winter season, and successive waves of strikes left much of the country facing blackouts.
Wednesday’s strike caused havoc across the country, with the capital Kyiv, the western city of Lviv and the entire Odessa region in the dark.
People who had taken shelter from the airstrikes in the capital left the bunkers to find their homes without electricity and rushed to find a place to sleep with friends or family. One in four homes in the city was still without power Thursday morning. Although the water supply was restored to all neighborhoods by mid-afternoon, it was still not running at full capacity, with those in high-rise buildings experiencing low water pressure, Mayor Vitalii said. Klitschko.
Video from the Reuters news agency showed residents of the capital queuing to fetch water from public wells in the pouring rain.
Hospitals relied on generator power or even headlamps carried by staff as they continued to perform operations.
At a hospital in Kyiv, doctors were performing heart surgery on a child when there was a power outage. Dr. Borys Todurov posted a video on Instagram showing surgeons working by the light of their headlamps while waiting for the generator to turn on.
The director of a hospital in the central region of Dnipropetrovsk, across the river from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, said that “dozens of patients in critical condition were on hospital tables. ‘operation at the Mechnikova hospital’ when the breakdown struck.
“Anesthesiologists and surgeons turned on headlights to save each of them,” Dr. Sergii Ryzhenko wrote on Facebook. He posted a picture of two doctors, who he said were Yaroslav Medvedyk and Kseniya Denysova, operating on a 23-year-old man when the electricity went out – “for the first time in Yaroslav’s 35 years of practice”.
Zelensky called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council following the strikes, which were quickly condemned by Ukraine’s allies.
The European Union has announced it will prepare a ninth sanctions package against Moscow, in what European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said was an attempt “to further blunt its ability to wage war to Ukraine”.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Russia’s attack demanded a response. “Ukraine suffered massive shelling today, leaving much of the country without water or electricity. Strikes against civilian infrastructure are war crimes and cannot go unpunished,” he tweeted on Wednesday evening.
Poland said on Wednesday that the Patriot missile defense system that Germany had given to Poland should go to Ukraine instead. “After new missile attacks (from Russia), I turned to (Germany) for the proposed Patriot batteries (from Poland) to be transferred to (Ukraine) and deployed on the western border,” Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Twitter. Germany’s offer to Poland came after a missile hit Polish territory near the Ukrainian border on November 15, killing two people.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Ukraine’s leaders could stop the suffering by meeting Russia’s demands.
“The leadership of Ukraine has every chance to bring the situation back to normal, has every chance to resolve the situation in such a way as to meet the demands of the Russian side and, therefore, to put an end to all possible suffering of the population local,” Peskov said in a call with reporters.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry sent out a tweet on Thursday marking nine months since the February 24 Russian invasion.
“Nine months. The span of time a child is born. In nine months of its full-scale invasion, Russia has killed and injured hundreds of our children, kidnapped thousands, and made millions of refugee children,” he said.