Russia launches huge power grid strikes in Ukraine as Kremlin acknowledges state of war

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Emergency Service, Ukrainian emergency carry an injured person at the site of Russia's air attack in Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine, March 2024.
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Emergency Service, Ukrainian emergency carry an injured person at the site of Russia's air attack in Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine, March 2024. Copyright AP/Belarusian Presidential Press Service
Copyright AP/Belarusian Presidential Press Service
By Euronews with AP
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Strikes on Ukraine's energy grid have been a feature of the Russian invasion from the start.

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A Kremlin spokesman has explicitly acknowledged for the first time that Russia is in fact at war with Ukraine, a key shift in vocabulary after two years of deliberate ambiguity and euphemism.

Dmitry Peskov made the remarks in an interview with the weekly outlet Argumenty i Fakti.

"We are in a state of war," he said. "Yes, it started as a special military operation, but as soon as this whole gang was formed, when the collective West took part in all this alongside Ukraine, for us it became a war. I am convinced of this, and everyone must understand it."

His remarks come as independent outlet Verstka reports that Russia is planning to mobilise 300,000 more troops to Ukraine this year, drawing on reservists, re-contracted conscripts and staff from defence contractors and state-backed companies.

Ukrainian government estimates Russia is on track to have lost 500,000 troops in the war by the end of this year.

Massive attacks on Ukrainian energy grid

Russia attacked key parts of Ukraine's electrical power infrastructure on Friday, killing at least five people and causing widespread outages.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said more than 60 drones and about 90 rockets were used in the attack, which Ukrainian authorities say was the largest assault on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure this year and one of the largest since the outbreak of the war.

“Even last winter, attacks on our energy system were not as large as they were this night,” said the head of energy utility Ukrenergo, Volodymyr Kudrytskyi.

The co-ordinated strikes came a day after Russia launched 31 missiles at the capital in a single attack.

Every large-scale air attack depletes Ukraine’s capabilities to repel Russian missiles. Zelenskyy has been urging Ukraine’s Western allies for weeks to provide additional air defence systems and ammunition while aid from the US remains on hold thanks to right-wing holdouts in Congress.

“With Russian missiles, there are no delays, like with aid packages to our state," Zelenskyy said, pointing to the Iranian-made Shahed drones that Russia has deployed.

"Shaheds don’t have indecisiveness, as do some politicians. It is important to understand the cost of delays and postponed decisions.”

The attacks caused a fire at the Dnipro Hydroelectric Station, which supplies electricity to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe's largest nuclear power installation.

The main external power line to the plant was cut off, International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi said early Friday, but Ukraine's nuclear energy operator said it was restored several hours later.

The plant is occupied by Russian troops, and fighting around the plant has been a constant concern because of the potential for a nuclear accident.

The dam at the hydroelectric station was not in danger of breaching, the country's hydroelectric authority said. A dam breach could not only disrupt supplies to the nuclear plant but would potentially cause severe flooding similar to what occurred last year when a major dam at Kakhovka further down the Dnieper collapsed.

Three people were killed and at least eight injured in the Russian attack, said Zaporizhzhia regional Governor Ivan Fedorov.

Further strikes hit Kharkiv

Attacks on energy facilities in the Kharkiv region, meanwhile, caused blackouts in the country's second-largest city and disrupted critical air-raid siren systems.

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Regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said police would inform residents of possible air raids through loudspeakers and walkie-talkies and that alerts would be sent to cellular phones.

Other attacks were reported in areas of western Ukraine far from the front lines. Two people died in the Khmelnytskyi region, according to the Internal Affairs Ministry.

The power outages left 1,060 miners trapped in the Dnipropetrovsk region and an evacuation was underway, according to private energy company DTEK.

“The world sees the targets of Russian terrorists as clearly as possible: power plants and energy supply lines, a hydroelectric dam, ordinary residential buildings, even a trolleybus. Russia is fighting against the ordinary life of people,” Zelenskyy said Friday on the Telegram messaging app.

Russian officials said Friday that one person died and at least three were injured in Ukrainian shelling of areas near the border.

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The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said a woman was killed when a shell hit nearby while she was walking her dogs and that two others were injured. The town of Tetkino in the Kursk region was shelled, injuring one person, said Gov. Roman Starovoit.

Both regions have been subject to shelling and drone attacks in recent weeks and officials have said that attempts by Ukrainian fighters to cross into Russian territory have been repelled.

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