Russian forces fired dozens of missiles across Ukraine on Friday, triggering widespread power outages, Ukrainian officials said.
Gunfire from air defence systems and thudding explosions combined with the wail of air-raid sirens as the barrage hit critical infrastructure in cities including Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kryvyi Rih and Zaporizhzhia. The head of the Ukrainian armed forces said they intercepted 60 of 76 missiles launched.
In Kyiv, city council member Ksenia Semenova said 60 percent of residents were without power on Friday evening, and 70 percent without water. The subway system was out of service and unlikely to be back in operation on Saturday, she said.
Russian attacks on electricity and water systems have occurred intermittently since mid-October, increasing the suffering of the population as winter approaches. But the Ukrainian military has reported increasing success in shooting down incoming rockets and explosive drones.
Friday’s attacks took place after the United States this week agreed to give a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine to boost the country’s defence. Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned on Thursday that the sophisticated system and any crews accompanying it would be a legitimate target for the Russian military.
The US also pledged last month to send $53m in energy-related equipment to help Ukraine withstand the attacks on its infrastructure. John Kirby, the spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said on Friday that the first tranche of that aid had arrived in the country.
More than half the Russian missiles fired on Friday were aimed at Ukraine’s capital. The city administration said Kyiv withstood “one of the biggest rocket attacks” it has faced since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 10 months ago. Ukrainian air defence shot down 37 of about 40 missiles that entered the city’s airspace, and one person was injured, it said.
In Kryvyi Rih, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s hometown in central Ukraine, the apartment building hit by a missile had a gaping hole in its upper floors. Along with the three people killed, at least 13 were taken to the hospital, said Igor Karelin, the deputy head of the city’s emergency services.
Rescue teams with sniffer dogs searched through the debris for a missing mother and her 18-month-old child.
Also in Kryvyi Rih, nearly 600 miners were stuck underground because of the missile attacks, but were later rescued, Mayor Oleksandr Vilkul said on state TV.
He said: “Several energy infrastructure facilities were completely destroyed.”
Analysts have said the Russian bombardment of energy infrastructure is part of an attempt to freeze Ukrainians into submission after battlefield losses by Russian forces. Experts say that has only strengthened the resolve of Ukrainians to resist Russia’s invasion, while Moscow tries to buy time for a possible offensive in the coming months after the current battlefield deadlock.