Russia launches more strikes at Ukrainian civilians and energy grid

KYIV — Hours after the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to designate Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” Russia unleashed its latest barrage of missiles aimed at Ukraine’s critical infrastructure — and its civilians.

Russia’s military bombed a maternity ward in Vilniansk, a small city in the Zaporizhzhia region, killing a 2-day old baby and injuring doctors and medics. The newborn’s mother survived the attack.

The capital city of Kyiv was plunged into darkness, and water supplies were largely cut off, as Russia’s latest salvo also hit power plants and power transmission stations across the country.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia, which has lost more and more territory to successful Ukrainian counteroffensives, of “waging a cowardly war of terror against civilians.” Targeting infrastructure, Kuleba tweeted, was a purely vindictive measure owing to the Russians’ inability “to win in a fair fight with the Ukrainian army.”

Dmytro Kuleba
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP via Getty Images)

According to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, 31 Russian missiles were aimed at the capital on Wednesday. Klitschko had earlier told German news outlet Deutsche Welle that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aim was to “terrorize people, making them freeze without electricity.” Ukrainians are facing their worst winter since World War II, Klitschko said, adding that it may yet be necessary to evacuate parts of Kyiv if the heat, electricity and water shortages continue.

Ukraine’s military said it had shot down 21 Russian missiles on Wednesday, but 10 managed to get through. Throughout the country, according to Ukraine, 70 missiles were fired at infrastructure targets; 51 were successfully intercepted.

In Vyshgorod, a northern suburb of Kyiv, Russian missiles hit a residential building, killing 3, including a 17-year-old girl.

Six people were killed and another 36 injured throughout Ukraine on Wednesday, according to National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko, who said he expected the total number of killed and injured to rise as rescue efforts went on into the night.

In contrast to Russian strikes over the past several weeks, which have relied heavily on Iranian-made “Shahed 136” kamikaze drones, Wednesday’s munitions, cruise and anti-aircraft missiles were exclusively of Russian manufacture.

Fire and rescue workers attend to a building hit by a missile in central Kyiv on Wednesday
Fire and rescue workers attend to a building hit by a missile in central Kyiv on Wednesday. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

The British Ministry of Defense claimed Wednesday that Russia had “very likely exhausted” its supply of Iranian drones, some 400 so far, citing the fact that none had been fired at Ukraine since Nov. 17. The Washington Post last week reported that Moscow had inked a deal with Tehran to manufacture “hundreds” of Shahed drones in Russia within months, based on U.S. and Western intelligence.

As a result of more power disruptions caused by the attacks, the Rivne, South Ukrainian and Khmelnytsky nuclear power plants were disconnected from the national grid. Ukrainian nuclear energy authority Energoatom pointed out that the reactors were operating normally and that the disconnection was precautionary.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, currently still occupied by Russian forces, also went into “full blackout mode,” relying on emergency diesel generators to provide the power needed to cool the reactors and power other essential functions.

The latest strikes came on the same day that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development approved a $380 million financial aid package for Ukrenergo, the Ukrainian energy company, to enable it to fast-track repairs to Ukraine’s battered grid.

A dark street in Odesa
A dark street in Odesa. On Nov. 15, the Russian military launched another massive attack on Ukraine's critical infrastructure. (Viacheslav Onyshchenko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

But the outages caused by Russian strikes did not just affect Ukraine.

Neighboring Moldova, linked to Ukraine’s power grid as a result of Soviet-era interconnectivity, also suffered widespread power outages Wednesday. Moldova’s capital Chisinau and the headquarters of its Ministry of Foreign Affairs were blacked out, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu.

Maia Sandu, president of Moldova, meanwhile posted to Facebook: “We can’t trust a regime that leaves us in the dark and cold that purposely kills people for the mere desire to keep other peoples poor and humble.”