Photo: The Canadian Press
A punishing new barrage of Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure on Wednesday caused power outages across large parts of the country as well as neighboring Moldova, adding to damage to Ukraine’s power network and misery for civilians as winter begins.
Multiple regions reported attacks in quick succession. In several regions, authorities reported strikes on critical infrastructure. Officials in Kyiv said that three people were dead and nine wounded in the capital after a Russian strike hit a two-storey building.
Russia has been pounding the power grid and other facilities with missiles and exploding drones for weeks. The new strikes piled further intense stress on an energy system that is being damaged faster than it can be repaired.
Before the latest barrage, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had said that Russian strikes had already damaged around half of Ukraine’s infrastructure.
Rolling power outages have become the horrid new normal for millions and the latest barrage affected water supplies, too. Ukrainian officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is hoping that the misery of unheated and unlit homes in the cold and dark of winter will turn public opinion against a continuation of the war but say it’s having the opposite effect, strengthening Ukrainian resolve.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Wednesday that “one of the capital’s infrastructure facilities has been hit” and there were “several more explosions in different districts” of the city. He said water supplies were knocked out in all of Kyiv.
There were power outages in parts of Kyiv, while power was out in the wider Kyiv region, in the northern city of Kharkiv, the western city of Lviv, the northern Chernihiv region and in the southern Odesa region. In Moldova, Infrastructure Minister Andrei Spinu said that “we have massive power outages across the country,” whose Soviet-era energy systems remain interconnected with Ukraine.
There was a similar outage in Moldova on Nov. 15. The country’s pro-Western president, Maia Sandu, said in a statement that “Russia left Moldova in the dark.” She said that the future of Moldova, a country of about 2.6 million people, “must remain towards the free world.”
Power also was out in most parts of the western Khmelnytskyi region, governor Serhii Hamalii said on Telegram. He added that a nuclear power plant in the region was disconnected from the Ukrainian electricity grid.
The latest onslaught came hours after Ukrainian authorities said an overnight rocket attack destroyed a hospital maternity ward in southern Ukraine, killing a 2-day-old baby. Following the overnight strike in Vilniansk, close to the city of Zaporizhzhia, the baby’s mother and a doctor were pulled alive from the rubble.
The region’s governor said the rockets were Russian. The strike adds to the gruesome toll suffered by hospitals and other medical facilities — and their patients and staff — in the Russian invasion that will enter its tenth month this week.
They have been in the firing line from the outset, including a March 9 airstrike that destroyed a maternity hospital in the now-occupied port city of Mariupol.
First lady Olena Zelenska wrote on Twitter that a two-day-old boy died in the strike and expressed her condolences. “Horrible pain. We will never forget and never forgive,” she said.
Photos posted by the governor showed thick smoke rising above mounds of rubble, being combed by emergency workers against the backdrop of a dark night sky. The State Emergency Service said the two-story building was destroyed.
Medical workers’ efforts have been complicated by the succession of Russian attacks in recent weeks on Ukraine’s infrastructure.
The situation is even worse in the southern city of Kherson, from which Russia retreated nearly two weeks ago after months of occupation — cutting power and water lines.
Many doctors in the city are working in the dark, unable to use elevators to transport patients to surgery and operating with headlamps, cell phones and flashlights. In some hospitals, key equipment no longer works.
“Breathing machines don’t work, X-ray machines don’t work … There is only one portable ultrasound machine and we carry it constantly,” said Volodymyr Malishchuk, the head of surgery at a children’s hospital in the city.
On Tuesday, after strikes on Kherson seriously wounded 13-year-old Artur Voblikov, a team of health staff carefully maneuvered the sedated boy up six flights of a narrow staircase to an operating room to amputate his left arm.
Malischchuk said that three children wounded by Russian strikes have come to the hospital this week, half as many as had previously been admitted in all of the nine months since the invasion began. Picking up a piece of shrapnel that was found in a 14-year-old boy’s stomach, he said children are arriving with severe head injuries and ruptured internal organs.
Artur’s mother, Natalia Voblikova, sat in the dark hospital with her daughter, waiting for his surgery to end.
“You can’t even call (Russians) animals, because animals take care of their own,” said Voblikova wiping tears from her eyes. “But the children … Why kill children?”
The European Parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a resolution labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism for its invasion of and actions in Ukraine. The nonbinding but symbolically significant resolution passed in a 494-58 vote with 48 abstentions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the vote. “Russia must be isolated at all levels and be held accountable in order to end its longstanding policy of terrorism in Ukraine and across the globe,” he wrote on Twitter.
After Wednesday’s strikes, senior Zelenskyy aide Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram: “The terrorists immediately confirmed that they are terrorists — they launch rockets. Naive losers.”