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Russia pounds Ukraine's energy sector; Kyiv urges air defense help


A girl sleeps with her toy as she takes shelter with her family inside a metro station during a Russian military attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 1, 2024.
A girl sleeps with her toy as she takes shelter with her family inside a metro station during a Russian military attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 1, 2024.

Russia launched a barrage of missiles and drones on Saturday that damaged energy facilities and critical infrastructure across Ukraine, injuring at least four people, and prompting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to issue a fresh plea for more air defense assistance.

The sixth major Russian air attack on the Ukrainian power sector since March damaged energy facilities in the east, center and west, the national grid operator Ukrenergo said.

Ukraine's air force said it shot down 35 of 53 Russian missiles and 46 of 47 attack drones used for the strikes, which pile more pressure on Ukraine's hobbled energy system in the war’s third year.

"Russia's main goal is to normalize terror, to use the lack of sufficient air defense and determination of Ukraine's partners," Zelenskyy said on the Telegram messaging app. "Partners know exactly what is needed. Additional ‘Patriots’ and other modern air defense systems for Ukraine. To accelerate and expand F-16 deliveries to Ukraine. To provide our soldiers with all the necessary capabilities."

So far this year, Ukraine has found itself on the back foot as it faced delays in military aid from the United States, intensified attacks on its infrastructure and Moscow’s push to expand the frontline, 27 months after its full-scale invasion.

On Saturday, Russian forces attacked energy facilities in the eastern Donetsk region, southeastern Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk regions, central Kyrovohrad region and Ivano-Frankivsk region in the west, the energy ministry said.

Air alerts lasted for more than three hours across the regions with many people rushing for shelters in the middle of the night.

Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskyi said four people were injured and three critical infrastructure facilities were hit in the region on Ukraine's border with Poland. He gave no further details on the facilities.

DTEK, Ukraine's largest private energy-generating company, said its two thermal power plants had been hit and equipment "seriously damaged."

Russia’s defense ministry has said it is striking Ukraine’s military-industrial complex and energy facilities in retaliation for Kyiv’s strikes on Russian energy facilities.

Ukraine has stepped up drone attacks on Russian oil facilities this year, trying to find a pressure point against the Kremlin, whose forces are slowly advancing in the eastern Donbas region and have opened a new front in the Kharkiv region in the northeast.

Russia pounded the Ukrainian energy system in the first winter of the war, and renewed its assault on the grid in March as Ukraine was running low on stocks of Western air defense missiles.

Ukrainian officials have said that Western aid has started to arrive but that Russian bombardments over the past two months knocked out the bulk of the thermal and hydropower generation, caused blackouts and pushed electricity imports to record highs.

The government was forced to nearly double consumer electricity tariffs to be able to fund massive repairs. It plans record electricity imports of about 27 megawatt hours for Saturday.

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