Another barrage of Russian missile strikes hit Ukraine Wednesday, dealing a setback to the country’s struggle to restore its power network as winter sets in.
“As we speak now, Russia has launched a new wave of missile attacks on Ukrainian critical civilian infrastructure,” Oleg Nikolenko, the spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, said in an interview.
Because of the latest strikes, the interview took place in a ministry bunker several storeys underground, inside a small concrete cell.
For weeks, the Russian military has been systematically targeting Ukraine’s transportation and electricity distribution infrastructures.
“Following the last missile attacks, more than 10 million Ukrainians were deprived of electricity,” Nikolenko said, which represents a quarter of the population. “We understand that by launching today’s attacks, Russia wants to continue destroying the energy system of Ukraine.”
Discussions are underway about help from Canada and documents are circulating within the federal bureaucracy, a Canadian official said in a background briefing Wednesday. But Canada doesn’t have the industrial capacity to provide its ally the needed heavy equipment, such as transformers, the official said.
Wednesday’s bombardment came on the same day the European Parliament labelled Russia a state sponsor of terrorism for its invasion of and actions in Ukraine and called for tougher sanctions against Russia from member states.
“Whenever they can, they try to destroy the capacity of the country to provide the population with electricity, and with electricity comes heating and water,” Nikolenko said of the Russian attacks.
Kyiv was again plunged into darkness Wednesday night and supplies of drinking water were limited. At a downtown hotel near Maidan Square, guests were asked to restrict their water use.
A siren warning of missiles sounded at around 12:30 p.m. A two-storey building in Kyiv was hit and there were unconfirmed reports that people had been injured. The Associated Press reported that in Vilniansk in eastern Ukraine, a Russian rocket struck the maternity wing of a hospital on Wednesday, killing a newborn boy and critically injuring a doctor.
In Kyiv, residents went about their business normally Wednesday afternoon. Stores, cafés and restaurants were open and streets were filled with traffic. Despite the cold, grey weather, people stopped in Mykhailivska Square to cast an eye on an array of Ukrainian trophies of war: several destroyed Russian tanks, self-propelled howitzers and troop transport vehicles.
The Ukrainian army confirmed Wednesday that a number of cities had been hit by missiles, including Lviv and Odesa. Authorities specified that energy infrastructure had been targeted as well as residential buildings. Russian attacks have destroyed generating facilities and transmission lines, affecting the entire production and distribution system.
“The wintertime will be very difficult for Ukrainians because of Russia’s missile terror,” Nikolenko said. He added that the country is getting support from its partners, including the provision of mobile power generators, to help Ukrainians survive the freezing temperatures.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told a German media outlet that this will be “the worst winter” since the Second World War, and residents should prepare themselves accordingly.
The country is asking its allies for financial and logistical support to be able to produce and distribute electricity in the coming months, including spare parts, generators and transformers.
Nikolenko said morale remains high among citizens. “Those attacks will not affect Ukrainians’ will for victory,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2022.
— Patrice Bergeron is a Quebec-based journalist with The Canadian Press. In addition to two decades of political and general news experience, he was a CP war correspondent in Afghanistan in 2009.