A Ukrainian strike on a power station in Russian-held territory in eastern Ukraine overnight cut power to towns and cities, the pro-Russian authorities there said on Sunday, less than a day after Moscow launched a record number of attack drones toward Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
The overnight attack was another sign of Kyiv’s determination to inflict damage on its adversary’s electricity infrastructure before what many in Ukraine expect will be a renewed wintertime assault by Russia on Ukraine’s power grid.
Denis Pushilin, the pro-Moscow leader in the Russian-held part of the Donetsk region, said that most of the drones launched by Ukraine at the area overnight had been intercepted, but “due to the massiveness of the strikes, not everything was shot down.”
“The situation is not easy,” he said on the Telegraph messaging app, adding that some towns and districts had been left without light. He did not say whether the attack had involved drones or missiles or a combination of the two.
The attack hit the thermal power plant in Starobesheve, a town at least 25 miles east of the front line in the region, according to Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency. It said that power had been cut in half of the regional capital, Donetsk, and in half of the port city of Mariupol about 60 miles to the south.
Power infrastructure has become a significant theater in the war, in addition to the frontline battles in southern and eastern Ukraine and a struggle for control of the Black Sea. In the absence of a major military breakthrough by either side this year, Ukraine’s ability to survive a second winter of attacks has been a focus of concern for many people.
Last year, starting in October, Russia mounted a concerted campaign to starve Ukraine of energy, apparently seeking to disrupt the country’s fighting capability and sap the will of Ukrainians to continue the war.
The Ukrainian authorities say that barrage of missile and exploding-drone strikes would have put the country’s electricity grid out of action were it not for the efforts of utility workers and support from Kyiv’s Western partners. Even so, the assault left many Ukrainians in the dark and cold and hurt the country’s economy.
Ukraine’s energy sector has prepared extensively for the likelihood of another winter assault, repairing and shielding electricity substations and installing additional power production capacity. Air defenses including Patriot missile systems supplied by the country’s NATO allies have also made the country less vulnerable.
At the same time, Ukraine has ramped up its attacks on Russian-occupied territory and Russia itself.
RIA Novosti reported that the country’s air defenses had shot down 11 Ukrainian drones in western Russia overnight and nine others on Sunday. Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said that some of the drones had been flying toward his city. Drones were also intercepted in the Bryansk, Kaluga and Tula regions of western Russia, according to RIA.
Ukraine has targeted energy infrastructure specifically, launching at least five attacks since October on at least three electricity substations and an oil refinery in the Krasnodar region of Russia, according to the Ukrainian authorities, who maintain that they attack only power facilities directly linked to Russia’s military campaign.
Five people were injured in Russia’s attack on Kyiv overnight into Saturday, an assault that Ukraine said involved about 75 drones and that President Volodymyr Zelensky described as “deliberate terror.” Russian forces then followed up overnight into Sunday with further drone attacks.
Ukraine’s air force said on Telegram that it had shot down eight of the nine drones that Russia launched. It did not say where the drone that got through its defenses had struck.
Constant Méheut contributed reporting