Ukraine on Thursday warned that difficult winter months lay ahead after a “massive” Russian missile barrage targeted civilian infrastructure, leaving several dead and wounded in towns across Ukraine.
Russia launched the strikes as Ukraine prepares for a third winter during Moscow’s 19-month long invasion and as President Volodymyr Zelensky made his second wartime trip to Washington.
The fresh attack came as Poland said it would honour pre-existing commitments of weapons supplies to Kyiv, a day after saying it would no longer arm its neighbour in a mounting row between the two neighbours.
Moscow hit cities from Rivne in western Ukraine to Kherson in the south, the capital Kyiv and cities in the centre and northeast of the country.
The attacks killed at least three people in Kherson and wounded many in other parts of Ukraine, with authorities still searching for victims in some cities.
“Difficult months are ahead: Russia will attack energy and critically important facilities,” said Oleksiy Kuleba, the deputy head of Kyiv’s presidential office. He added that Moscow had targeted “civilian infrastructure” across Ukraine.
Kyiv said there were power cuts across the country — in almost 400 cities, towns and villages — as Russia targeted energy sites, but Ukraine added it was “too early” to tell if this was the start of a new Russian campaign against its energy sites.
– Grain export tensions –
Last winter many Ukrainians had to go without electricity and heating in freezing temperatures as Russia hit Kyiv’s energy facilities.
In Kyiv’s eastern Darnitsky district, frightened residents of a dormitory woke up to their rooms with shattered windows and parked cars outside completely burnt out.
Debris from a downed missile in the capital wounded seven people, including a child.
“God, god, god,” Maya Pelyukh, a 50-year-old cleaner who lives in the building, said as she looked at her living room covered in broken glass and debris on her bed.
“The windows and doors were blown away. I was covered with window frames,” Pelyukh said. “I opened my eyes and started to crawl.”
She looked outside, where firefighters were extinguishing a blaze from the strike.
“There are no soldiers here,” she said, dismissing Moscow’s claim that it only hits military targets. “This is a dormitory… I don’t know why they are doing this.”
Some residents outside were still in dressing gowns as they watched emergency workers put out a fire the authorities said had spread over 400 square meters (4,300 square feet).
Daria Kalna held her toddler daughter as she watched workers clear the rubble.
“We thought we were being hit, it was very scary,” she told AFP. “There are no words to describe these emotions.”
In the southern city of Kherson, authorities said three people were killed in attacks on residential buildings.
Authorities in the central city of Cherkasy, Klymenko said emergency workers were still “looking for victims who may be under the rubble” after an attack on the city.
Tensions over Ukraine’s grain exports have built since Russia ended a deal that allowed for cargo ships’ safe passage on the Black Sea.
The European Commission — the EU’s executive arm — last week said it was ending an import ban on Ukraine grain, arguing that “the market distortions in the five member states bordering Ukraine have disappeared”.
Poland, Hungary and Slovakia immediately announced they would defy the move.
In a quickly escalating row, Poland said it wouldn’t arm Ukraine anymore, but would honour existing commitments.
Slovakia announced, however, that it had reached an agreement on how to handle grain exports.
– Energy fears –
The Thursday attacks came after more than a year and a half of war, with winter — which can be severe in parts of Ukraine — weeks away.
Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrenergo said 398 settlements were out of electricity as the attacks damaged energy sites across the country.
“There are partial power cuts in Rivne, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv region,” it said on Telegram.
But it added that it was too early to tell if Russia had launched another campaign on Ukraine’s energy sites.
Oleksiy Chernyshov, the chairman of Ukraine’s main energy company Naftogaz, also urged calm.
“We should calm down, the volume of gas will be enough to last the next heating season,” he said on television.
Russia’s missile attacks came as Zelensky was in the United States in a bid to win new aid for Ukraine — which has pressed on with a counter-offensive for months — despite some Western fatigue over the dragging conflict.
He is due to meet President Joe Biden and go to the Pentagon to seek more weapons for Kyiv after he addressed the UN’s General Assembly in New York, where he decried Russia’s “genocide.”
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – AFP)