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Russia fires new drone barrage at Ukraine energy facilities

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a joint news conference with U.S. President Joe Biden after their meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 12.  (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
By Daryna Krasnolutska Bloomberg News

Russia hit energy facilities in Ukraine’s south and the far west on Sunday as it continues almost daily drone and missile barrages, local authorities said.

Kremlin forces damaged high-voltage electricity substations in the Odesa region, causing power to be cut off to more than 170,000 households in Ukraine’s third largest city, according to the electricity provider DTEK.

Electricity has been partially restored, helped by solar and wind power, yet the situation remains difficult and public transport powered by electricity has been halted.

Ukraine’s state-run energy company Naftogaz said its assets were again attacked by Russia overnight, with specialists fixing damage.

“Our enterprises continue to fulfill all their obligations to clients,” Naftogaz Chief Executive Officer Oleksiy Chernyshov said in emailed statement, without providing details. Russia targeted Ukraine’s gas storage earlier this month.

Electricity supplies were limited again in Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv, the energy ministry said in emailed statement.

“Power companies are forced to renew hourly blackout schedules,” the ministry said. “This is due to the unreliability of the electricity transmission system after large-scale enemy attacks, as well as the insufficiency of local generation due to the destruction of power plants.”

In the Lviv region, not far from Ukraine’s border with Poland, Russia targeted critical infrastructure for the third time since March 24, destroying an administrative building and killing at least one person, Maksym Kozytskyi, the head of the region, said on Telegram.

Ukraine shot down nine cruise missiles out of 14 directed at it overnight, as well as nine of 11 drones, air defense forces said. Russia also fired a ballistic missile and a guided aviation rocket, the forces said.

Russia’s defense ministry confirmed in a statement carried by the RIA news agency that it had carried out strikes on energy infrastructure and gas production facilities in Ukraine, as well as several defense industry targets.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly urged Ukraine’s allies to supply more air-defense equipment after Russia stepped up missile attacks in recent weeks.

More than $60 billion in planned U.S. military assistance to Kyiv has been bogged down for months by partisan political infighting in Washington.

“Russian terrorists are currently carrying out such heinous attacks in an attempt to drain Ukraine’s power,” Zelenskyy said Saturday in his nightly address to the nation. “We sent necessary signals and concrete requests to all of our partners who have the necessary air defense systems and missiles.”

The U.S., Europe and other allies “know exactly what we need, and they all understand how critical it is to assist Ukraine in defending itself against these strikes right now,” Zelenskyy said.

In an interview with the Washington Post done in Kyiv on Thursday, Zelenskyy vowed to keep up retaliatory drone strikes on Russian oil-refining facilities despite U.S. discontent with its campaign.

“We used our drones. Nobody can say to us you can’t,” Zelenskyy said of the strikes that have slashed refinery output.

Zelenskyy also indicated in the interview that delays in receiving security assistance are gradually corroding Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.

“If there is no U.S. support, it means that we have no air defense, no Patriot missiles, no jammers for electronic warfare, no 155-millimeter artillery rounds,” he said. “It means we will go back, retreat, step by step, in small steps.”