Nuclear power plants off the grid, blackout in Ukraine: Russia’s new strategy

Blackout in Kyiv

At times the whole city was without electricity and the energy supply was severely damaged.

(Photo: IMAGO/NurPhoto)

Kyiv After the heavy Russian rocket fire on the Ukrainian energy infrastructure, more than two thirds of the capital Kyiv are still without electricity on Thursday morning. Part of the population is also cut off from the water supply, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

At a UN Security Council meeting in New York on Wednesday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for Moscow to be condemned. Russia must be clearly designated as a terrorist state. The attacks on the critical infrastructure are “crimes against humanity”. He called for more air defense support and for United Nations teams of experts to investigate the damage.

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With another devastating attack on electricity, water and heat supplies, Russia plunged Ukraine into almost complete darkness for several hours on Wednesday. The power went out at times in all regions after Moscow attacked civilian targets with 67 cruise missiles and around ten drones. According to their own statements, the Ukrainian air defense shot down 51 cruise missiles and half of the drones. At least ten people were killed and dozens injured.

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As in previous attacks – the Russians have been waging a systematic campaign against the enemy’s critical infrastructure since October 10 – the Ukrainians were able to quickly restore part of the supply. According to government information, electricity was at least partially working again in 15 of the 24 regions by 11 p.m. According to President Zelensky, the situation remained very difficult, especially in the capital.

Military observer: The timing of the escalation was deliberately chosen

Since the first snow fell in the eastern European country last week and temperatures have fallen below freezing overnight, the consequences of the power outages are all the more serious. According to Western military observers, the Russians are deliberately factoring this into their tactics, and it is no coincidence that the attacks escalated at this point in time.

Destruction in Kyiv

Clean-up work after a devastating attack on the Ukrainian capital.

(Photo: Getty Images)

They hope to wear down the civilian population, thereby weakening support for defensive fighting that thrives on the battlefield. The Ukrainians have recaptured more than half of the territory occupied by Moscow since February 24, most recently the city of Cherson.

Since the occupiers destroyed the critical infrastructure when they left many areas that have now been liberated, the Ukrainian authorities who returned called on some of the population to evacuate. To avoid a new wave of refugees heading west from the rest of the country, the government has set up, among other things, 4,000 places where people can warm up and charge their mobile phones.

Whether this is sufficient, especially for the care of older and less mobile people, is another question. In an interview with the “Bild” newspaper, Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko did not rule out a partial evacuation of the capital “in the worst case”.

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The Russian attacks also meant that all four nuclear power plants had to be taken off the grid temporarily, although the exact reasons remained unclear for the time being. There was talk of shelling, but the network operator Ukrenerho said there was no immediate danger. The neighboring country of Moldova, whose power grid is connected to that of Ukraine, also reported extensive power outages. According to official information, 90 percent of the electricity supply was restored by late evening.

It is currently difficult to estimate the state of Ukraine’s energy grid. A week ago, Prime Minister Denis Schmihal said half of it was damaged or destroyed. On Wednesday, he added that most of the key power plants are currently in non-operational condition. The country is increasingly dependent on help from the West for repairs – not least because spare parts are very difficult to obtain.

More: Ukraine is facing a hard winter – the supply system has so far proven to be robust in Soviet terms

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