Russia on Tuesday struck Ukrainian energy facilities in its largest missile strike yet, hitting targets across the country and causing widespread power outages, a U.S. official said, as the missiles flew over NATO member Poland and killed two people.
Defiant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy clenched his fists and declared: “We will get through it all.”
Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller did not immediately confirm the information from a senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation. But Mueller said an emergency meeting of top leaders was being held because of a “crisis situation”.
Two people were killed when a shell hit a grain drying area in the Polish village of Przewodów, near the Ukrainian border, on Tuesday afternoon, Polish media reported.
Neighboring Moldova also affectedIt reported a massive outage after the strike knocked out a key power line that supplies the small country, an official said.
Zelensky said Russia fired at least 85 missiles, “most of which were aimed at our energy infrastructure” and caused power outages in many cities.
“We’re working on it and we’re going to restore everything. We’re going to get through it all,” the president vowed. His energy minister said the attack was the “largest” bombing of power facilities in Russia’s nearly nine-month incursion, hitting power generation and transmission systems.
Minister Herman Haluschenko described the missile attack as “another attempt at terrorist revenge” after the Kremlin suffered a military and diplomatic setback. He accused Russia of “trying to inflict maximum damage to our energy system on the eve of winter”.
The strike, which killed at least one person in a residential building in the capital Kyiv, came after days of excitement over Ukraine’s retake of the southern city of Kherson last week over one of its biggest military victories.
Power grids have been disrupted by previous attacks that knocked out about 40 percent of the country’s energy infrastructure.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not commented on the retreat from Kherson since withdrawing troops in the face of the Ukrainian offensive. But the scale of Tuesday’s strike was staggering and hinted at the Kremlin’s anger.
By striking targets in the early evening, shortly before dusk, the Russian military forces rescuers to work in the dark and leaves little time for maintenance crews to assess damage during the day.
More than a dozen regions — including Lviv in the west, Kharkov in the northeast and others in between — reported that their air defenses struck or attempted to shoot down missiles. Power outages were reported in at least a dozen areas, affecting a city of millions of people. Almost half of the Kyiv region was without power, authorities said. Ukrainian Railways announced nationwide train delays.
Zelensky warned that more strikes were likely and urged people to stay safe and seek shelter.
“Most hits were recorded in the center and north of the country. In the capital, the situation is very difficult,” said Tymoshenko, a senior official.
A total of 15 energy targets were damaged, he said, and claimed 70 missiles were shot down. A Ukrainian air force spokesman said Russia used X-101 and X-555 cruise missiles.
As one city after another reported attacks, Tymoshenko urged Ukrainians to “hold their ground”.
As battlefield losses mounted, Russia increasingly targeted Ukraine’s power grid, seemingly hoping to weaponize the onset of winter to keep people cold and dark.
In Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said authorities found a body in one of three residential buildings hit in the capital, and electricity provider DTEK also declared an emergency blackout.
A video posted by a presidential aide showed an apparently five-story residential building in Kyiv on fire, with flames spreading to apartments. Air defenses also shot down some missiles, Klitschko said.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra traveled to a bomb shelter in Kyiv after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart and described the bombing from his safety as “a huge drive to stay shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine”.
“There’s only one answer, and that’s: keep going. Keep supporting Ukraine, keep delivering arms, keep working for accountability, keep working for humanitarian aid,” he said.
Ukraine has experienced a period of relative calm since a wave of drone and missile attacks a few weeks ago.
The strike comes as authorities are already working to get Kherson back on his feet and have launched an investigation into alleged Russian abuse in and around the region.
Matilda Bogner, head of the U.N. human rights office’s monitoring mission in Ukraine, condemned on Tuesday a “dire humanitarian situation” in the southern city without power or water.
Speaking in Kyiv, Bogner said her team was seeking to travel to Kherson to try to verify allegations of nearly 80 cases of enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention.
Ukrainian National Police chief Igor Krymenko said authorities would start investigating reports from residents of Kherson that Russian troops set up at least three suspected torture sites in now-liberated parts of the wider Kherson region. places where “our people may have been detained and tortured.”
Recapturing Kherson dealt another heavy blow to the Kremlin. Zelensky likened the retake to the Allied landings in France during World War II, saying both were watershed events on the path to eventual victory.
But much of eastern and southern Ukraine remains under Russian control and fighting continues.
Zelensky warned that grim news could lie ahead.
“Everywhere, as we liberate our lands, we see one thing – Russia leaving torture chambers and mass graves. … How many mass graves are there in the territory that Russia still controls? Zelens asked Key.
—John Lester, Associated Press