Lights go out in Ukraine as Russia launches ‘massive’ strike

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of people in central and western Ukraine woke up to power outages and regular gunfire on Saturday as Ukraine’s air defenses attempted to shoot down drones and incoming missiles.

Russia has intensified its strikes against power plants, water supply systems and other vital infrastructure across the country, the final phase of the war as it nears the eight-month mark.

Ukraine’s Air Force said in a statement Saturday that Russia launched “a massive rocket attack” on “critical infrastructure” hours after air raid sirens rang out across the country. It said it shot down 18 of 33 cruise missiles launched from the air and sea.

“Several rockets” aimed at the capital were launched on Saturday morning, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram news service.

Similar reports were made by the governors of six western and central provinces, as well as the southern Black Sea region of Odessa.

The President’s Office said in its morning statement that five drones loaded with explosives were shot down in the central Cherkassy region, southeast of Kyiv.

The western town of Khmelnytskyi, which straddles the Bug River and was home to around 275,000 people before the war, went without power shortly after local media reported several loud explosions.

The city council urged residents in a social media post on Saturday to save water “if it is also used up within an hour”.

The mayor of Lutsk, a city of 215,000 in far western Ukraine, made a similar appeal on Telegram on Saturday. Electricity in Lutsk was partially cut off after Russian missiles hit local power plants, he said.

The central city of Uman, a major pilgrimage center for Hasidic Jews with a population of about 100,000 before the war, was also plunged into darkness after a missile struck a nearby power plant, regional authorities said on Telegram.

Rolling blackouts went into effect in the capital and four surrounding regions, including Cherkasy, on Saturday morning in response to reduced power supplies. The state energy company Ukrenergo continued to appeal to all Ukrainians to save energy.

Earlier this week, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged consumers to limit their electricity consumption between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. daily and avoid using energy-guzzling appliances such as electric heaters.

Over the past two weeks, Moscow has stepped up attacks on vital civilian infrastructure across Ukraine. About 40% of the country’s power system was badly damaged, officials said. Zelenskyi said earlier in the week that 30% of Ukraine’s power plants have been destroyed since October 10.

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Kozlowska reported from London.

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