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Dam hit, nuclear plant narrowly avoids shutdown as Russia launches massive attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure

Source: Meduza

In the early hours of March 22, Russian forces launched what Ukraine’s energy minister called the “largest attack” on Ukrainian infrastructure in recent times. Numerous critical infrastructure facilities across the country, including the Dnipro Dam, have been hit, and many places are without power or are under rolling blackouts to reduce demand on damaged systems. Additionally, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was briefly disconnected from the grid during the strikes, posing a risk of shutdown. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the attack a direct “war against ordinary people’s lives.”

Air raid sirens sounded throughout Ukraine early Friday as the Russian military launched massive missile strikes across the country. Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko called the strikes “the most extensive attack on Ukrainian energy infrastructure in recent times,” saying they were aimed at “causing a large-scale breakdown of the nation’s energy system.” Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the head of Ukraine’s high-voltage transmission operator Ukrenergo, concurred, saying the attack was the largest of its kind since the start of the full-scale war.

According to Halushchenko, power generation facilities as well as transmission and distribution systems in various regions were hit and damaged. Many places are without power.

The city of Kharkiv has been left almost entirely without electricity or running water following Russian strikes on over 15 energy infrastructure targets in the area, reported Governor Oleh Syniehubov.

Russia launched 12 missiles on Zaporizhzhia, said regional Governor Ivan Fedorov. According to preliminary information, at least one person was killed and eight people were injured. Fedorov later reported that two more people are missing. At least seven residential buildings in the area were destroyed and 35 were damaged.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, currently under Russian control, was also on the verge of shutdown. During the attack, the overhead power line connecting the occupied plant to Ukraine’s power grid was disconnected.

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Drone and missile strikes also damaged critical infrastructure in Kryvyi Rih, said Mayor Oleksandr Vilkul. The city is implementing emergency shutdown schedules and hospitals and other critical facilities are switching to generator power where possible.

Pro-Kremlin Telegram channels reported a strike on the Dnipro Dam, a hydroelectric power plant. Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to Mariupol’s legitimate mayor, said a Russian missile hit a trolley traveling along the dam. According to him, the vehicle was filled with civilians who were commuting to work.

The Ukrainian energy company Ukrhydroenergo wrote that a fire broke out at the station but that the situation is under control and there is “no threat of breach.”

Ukrhydroenergo’s CEO, Ihor Syrota, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that the Russian military hit the station’s Hydroelectric Power Plant 1 and Hydroelectric Power Plant 2 (HPP-1 and HPP-2). According to him, HPP-2 was severely damaged and may be beyond repair. One of the station’s supports was also hit, and crane beams were broken. “We’ll have to completely restore the machine room and electrical equipment,” Syrota said. “We’ll assess the consequences within the day and take stock of what happened.”

Authorities in Ukraine’s Sumy region have introduced a schedule of emergency blackouts to cope with damage from strikes on energy infrastructure. Russia’s attacks also reportedly damaged critical energy infrastructure in Ukraine’s Vinnytsia, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Mykolaiv, and Odesa regions.

Khmelnytskyi Mayor Oleksandr Symchyshyn wrote that there were dead and wounded after Russian strikes hit infrastructure facilities and homes in the city. Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry confirmed the deaths of two people in Khmelnytskyi.

Missile debris fell on homes in Ukraine’s Poltava region, and rolling blackouts have been implemented in the area. Local authorities have also introduced blackouts in the Kirovohrad region to reduce the strain on the energy grid.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia launched over 60 drones and around 90 missiles in the attack. Commenting on the strikes, Zelensky wrote that they were clear evidence of Russia’s intent to harm Ukrainian civilians:

Russia is waging war against ordinary people’s lives. […] Russian missiles don’t have delays like aid packages to our nation do. Shahed [drones] have no indecision like some politicians. It’s important to understand the cost of delays and postponed decisions. Patriot systems should be protecting Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia; we need air defense systems to protect people, infrastructure, homes, and dams. Our partners know exactly what’s needed. They can certainly provide support. These decisions are necessary. Life must be protected from these Moscow barbarians.

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