Ukraine warns of difficult winter as Russian missile barrage hits civilian infrastructure


21st September 2023 – (Kyiv) Ukraine issued a warning on Thursday, stating that the country faces challenging winter months ahead following a devastating missile attack by Russia. The barrage targeted civilian infrastructure, resulting in several casualties and injuries in towns across Ukraine.

Cities from Rivne in western Ukraine to Kherson in the south, as well as the capital Kyiv and cities in the central and northeastern regions, were struck by Moscow’s missiles. The attacks claimed at least three lives in Kherson, and authorities are still searching for victims in some areas.

Russia launched these strikes as Ukraine braces itself for a third winter during Moscow’s ongoing 19-month invasion. It is noteworthy that President Volodymyr Zelensky was making his second wartime trip to Washington when the attacks occurred.

Oleksiy Kuleba, the deputy head of Kyiv’s presidential office, expressed concerns about the upcoming months, stating, “Difficult months are ahead: Russia will attack energy and critically important facilities.” Kuleba further emphasised that Moscow had deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure throughout Ukraine.

Kyiv reported power cuts across the country, affecting nearly 400 cities, towns, and villages, as Russia focused its attacks on energy sites. However, Ukrainian authorities stated that it was “too early” to determine if this marked the beginning of a new Russian campaign against their energy infrastructure.

Last winter, many Ukrainians endured freezing temperatures without electricity and heating due to previous attacks by Russia on Kyiv’s energy facilities.

In the eastern Darnitsky district of Kyiv, frightened residents woke up to shattered windows in their dormitory rooms and completely burnt-out cars parked outside. In the capital, debris from a downed missile resulted in seven people, including a child, sustaining injuries.

Maya Pelyukh, a 50-year-old cleaner residing in the building, described the horrifying scene in her living room, strewn with broken glass and debris on her bed. Pelyukh recounted, “The windows and doors were blown away. I was covered with window frames. I opened my eyes and started to crawl.” She witnessed firefighters extinguishing a blaze caused by the strike.

Contrary to Moscow’s claim of solely targeting military installations, Pelyukh countered, “There are no soldiers here. This is a dormitory… I don’t know why they are doing this.”

Outside, residents still clad in dressing gowns watched emergency workers battling a fire that had spread over an area of 400 square meters.

Daria Kalna, holding her toddler daughter, described the fear experienced during the attack, stating, “We thought we were being hit, it was very scary. There are no words to describe these emotions.”

In the southern city of Kherson, authorities reported three deaths resulting from attacks on residential buildings. Ukraine’s Interior Minister Igor Klymenko confirmed the casualties, adding that five more individuals were wounded. Kherson’s governor, Oleksandr Prokudin, stated that two of the victims were aged 29 and 41, while the city’s head, Roman Mrochko, later confirmed the death of an 81-year-old woman.

In Rivne, a western city considered relatively safe and distant from combat zones, authorities worked to extinguish a large fire at a car service station. Power outages were reported in parts of the city. Maksym Kozytskiy, the governor of the neighbouring Lviv region, revealed that three missiles struck industrial facilities in the city of Drogobych, approximately 70 kilometres from the Polish border.

Emergency workers in the central city of Cherkasy continued their search for victims potentially trapped under rubble after an attack on the city, as stated by Klymenko.

These missile attacks come after more than a year and a half of war, with winter fast approaching, which can be particularly severe in certain parts of Ukraine. As a result of the attacks on energy sites across the country, Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrenergo reported that 398 settlements were without electricity.

While partial power cuts were observed in Rivne, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv regions, it remains uncertain if Russia’s strikes signalled the start of a new campaign targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Oleksiy Chernyshov, the chairman of Ukraine’s main energy company Naftogaz, urged calm, assuring the public that “the volume of gas will be enough to last the next heating season.”

Russia’s missile attacks coincided with President Zelensky’s visit to the United States, where he sought additional aid for Ukraine’s ongoing counter-offensive. Despite some Western fatigue over the protracted conflict, Zelensky aimed to meet with President Joe Biden and visit the Pentagon to request further weapons for Kyiv. He previously addressed the UN General Assembly in New York, strongly condemning Russia’s actions as “genocide.”