Ukraine raced to restore power across the country on Thursday, a day after Russia sent a fresh salvo of missiles targeting critical infrastructure, shutting down most power plants and leaving the “vast majority” of people without power.
National energy company Ukrenergo said the work “took longer than after previous attacks” because Wednesday’s attack targeted power generation facilities and caused a “systemic incident”.
By Thursday afternoon, electricity had been restored to “all regions,” but individual households were still “gradually connected to the grid,” Kirilo Tymoshenko, an official in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said on Telegram.
Ukraine’s armed forces said 70 Russian missiles were launched on Wednesday afternoon and 51 were shot down, along with five attack drones.
The Energy Department said the attack killed at least 10 people, including a teenage girl, and “led to the temporary disruption of all nuclear power plants, and most thermal and electrical power plants.” It has left much of the country without electricity, with knock-on effects on heating, water supplies, and internet access in some areas.
The head of state nuclear power company Energoatom said in a statement that Wednesday marked the first time in 40 years that Ukraine’s four nuclear power plants shut down simultaneously. Petro Kotin said it was a precautionary measure and he expected to reconnect by Thursday evening. He said the three fully functioning Ukrainian-owned plants – the occupied Zaporizhia plant has not been operational since September – would help supply electricity to the national grid.
Ukraine is highly dependent on nuclear energy, according to the World Nuclear Association. It has 15 reactors in four plants that, before Russia’s massive invasion in February, produced about half of its electricity.
Russia has turned its attention to destroying Ukraine’s energy infrastructure ahead of the frigid winter season, and successive waves of strikes have left most of the country facing blackouts.
Wednesday’s strike caused chaos across the country, with the capital Kyiv, the western city of Lviv and the entire Odessa region in darkness.
People sheltering from airstrikes in the capital left shelters to find their homes without power and scrambled to find a place to spend the night with friends or family. One in four homes in the city remained without power Thursday morning. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that while the water supply was restored to all areas by mid-afternoon, it was still not operating at full capacity, with buildings in high-rise buildings experiencing low water pressure.
A video clip from Reuters showed people in the capital queuing to collect water from public wells in heavy rain.
Hospitals relied on generator power or even head torches worn by staff as they continued to perform operations.
In a Kyiv hospital, doctors were performing heart surgery on a child when the power went out. Dr. Boris Todorov posted a video to Instagram that showed the surgeons operating by the light of their headlights while they waited for the generator to start.
“Dozens of critically ill patients were on the operating tables at Mechnikova Hospital,” said the director of a hospital in the central Dnipropetrovsk region, across the river from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, when the power outage occurred.
“Anesthesiologists and surgeons put on headlights to save each of them,” Dr. Sergey Ryzenko wrote on Facebook. He posted a photo of two doctors, who he said were Yaroslav Medvedik and Ksenia Denisova, operating on a 23-year-old man when the electricity went out – “for the first time in Yaroslav’s 35 years of practice”.
Zelensky requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council in the wake of the strikes, which drew swift condemnation from Ukraine’s allies.
The European Union has announced that it will prepare a ninth package of sanctions against Moscow, in what European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described as an attempt to “increase its ability to wage war on Ukraine”.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Russia’s attack required a response. Today Ukraine has suffered heavy bombing, leaving most of the country without water or electricity. Strikes against civilian infrastructure are war crimes and cannot go unpunished.”
Poland said Wednesday that the Patriot missile defense system that Germany offered Poland should go to Ukraine instead. “After further missile attacks (from Russia), I turned to (Germany) to move the proposed (Poland’s) Patriot batteries to (Ukraine) and deploy them 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 on Thursday that the Ukrainian leadership could stop the suffering by meeting Russia’s demands.
“The leadership of Ukraine has every chance to bring the situation back to normal, and it has every chance to resolve the situation in such a way as to meet the requirements of the Russian side and, accordingly, stop all possible suffering of the local population,” Peskov said in contact with reporters.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry sent out a tweet Thursday marking nine months since the Russian invasion on February 24.
“Nine months. The amount of time a child is born. In nine months of its total invasion, Russia has killed and wounded hundreds of our children, kidnapped thousands of them, and made millions of children refugees.