Ukraine hit with fresh wave of deadly missile attacks, including Zaporizhzhia suburbs
Ukraine said Russia had destroyed homes in the southeast and knocked out power in many areas with a new round of missile attacks as the West imposed a price cap on Russian seaborne oil to try to limit Moscow’s ability to finance its invasion.
A new barrage had been anticipated for days and came on a day when emergency blackouts were due to end, with previous damage repaired. The strikes plunged parts of Ukraine back into freezing darkness with temperatures nationwide now firmly below freezing. However, Kyiv said its air defences limited the damage.
Russian forces have increasingly targeted Ukrainian energy facilities in recent weeks as they faced setbacks on the battlefield, causing major power outages as winter sets in.
“Don’t ignore the alarm,” said Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential staff.
At least four people were killed in the Russian missile attacks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, adding that most of some 70 missiles were shot down. Energy workers had already begun work on restoring power supplies, he said.
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Police in neighbouring Moldova were reported to have found missile fragments on its soil near the border with Ukraine.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the presidential office, gave no further details of the attacks. A city official said buildings had been hit in the suburbs of the city of Zaporizhzhia and some Russian missiles had been shot down.
Missiles also hit energy facilities in the regions of Kyiv and Vinnytsia in central Ukraine, Odesa in the south and Sumy in the north, officials said.
Forty per cent of the Kyiv capital region had no electricity, regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said, praising the work of Ukrainian air defences for what he said appeared to be a lack of “critical consequences” from Monday’s attacks.
Russia has said the attacks are designed to degrade Ukraine’s military. Ukraine says they are clearly aimed at civilians and thus constitute a war crime.
Russian airbases struck
Ukraine had only just returned to scheduled power outages from Monday rather than the emergency blackouts it has suffered since widespread Russian strikes on Nov. 23, the worst of the attacks on energy infrastructure that began in early October.
Russia’s Defence Ministry on Monday said Ukrainian drones attacked two air bases at Ryazan and Saratov in south-central Russia, killing three servicemen and wounding four, with two aircraft damaged by pieces of the drones when they were shot down.
Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility for the attacks. If it was behind them, they would be the deepest strikes inside the Russian heartland since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The Russian ministry said: “The Kyiv regime, in order to disable Russian long-range aircraft, made attempts to strike with Soviet-made unmanned jet aerial vehicles at the military airfields Dyagilevo, in the Ryazan region, and Engels, in the Saratov region.” The deaths were reported on the Ryazan base, 185 kilometres southeast of Moscow.
The ministry said the drones, flying at low altitude, were intercepted by air defences and shot down. It called the strikes a terrorist act aimed at disrupting its long-range aviation.
Despite that, it said, Russia responded with a “massive strike on the military control system and related objects of the defences complex, communication centres, energy and military units of Ukraine with high-precision air- and sea-based weapons” in which it said all 17 designated targets were hit.
Previous mysterious blasts have damaged arms stores and fuel depots in Russian regions near Ukraine and knocked out at least seven warplanes in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.
President Vladimir Putin drove a Mercedes across the bridge linking southern Russia to Crimea on Monday, less than two months since that, too, was hit by an explosion.
Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for any of those blasts either.
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Bakhmut, Ukraine, becomes centre of brutal, drawn-out battle
The Ukrainian city of Bakhmut has been the focus of unrelenting Russian attacks for almost six months, creating apocalyptic scenes of dead soldiers in trenches. As winter sets in, Russian troops are mounting an aggressive counter-offensive to recapture the city.
Russia cries foul
A $60 US per barrel price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil came into force on Monday. The G7 nations and Australia agreed to it on Friday after European Union member Poland, which wanted it even lower, dropped its objections. Russia is the world’s second-largest oil exporter.
The agreement allows Russian oil to be shipped to third-party countries using G7 and EU tankers, insurance companies and credit institutions, only if the cargo is bought at or below the $60 per barrel cap.
“It took a long time to get here — but this arguably is one of the strongest responses to Putin’s war in Ukraine,” tweeted Simone Tagliapietra, an energy policy expert at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels.
Moscow has said it will not abide by the measure even if it has to cut production, while Ukraine’s president said $60 was too high to stop Russia’s assault.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who is in charge of energy issues, warned in televised comments on Sunday that Russia won’t sell its oil to countries that try to apply the price cap.
“We will only sell oil and oil products to the countries that will work with us on market terms, even if we have to reduce output to some extent,” Novak said in televised remarks hours before the price cap came into effect.
India noncommittal on cap
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday it was “obvious and indisputable that the adoption of these decisions is a step towards destabilizing world energy markets.”
India has so far not committed to the price cap.
While hosting Germany’s foreign affairs minister on Monday, the country’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam said it isn’t right for European countries to prioritize their energy needs but “ask India to do something else.”
India and Russia have close relations and New Delhi has not supported Western sanctions on Moscow, even though it has repeatedly urged an “immediate cessation of violence” in Ukraine. India, also a major market for Russian-made weapons, has so far abstained from UN resolutions critical of Moscow’s war.
LISTEN | A child’s diary of war:
The Sunday Magazine11:25A child’s diary of war
On the morning of February 24, Yeva Skalietska was woken up by a loud, metallic bang. The 12-year-old girl from the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv rushed to a makeshift bomb shelter with her grandmother, hiding from Russian missile attacks and writing about the experience in her diary. Now, nearly 10 months into the war in Ukraine, Skalietska and her grandmother are living in Dublin, and her diary is being published for the world to read. Skalietska joins Piya Chattopadhyay to talk about the fear, anxiety and small moments of comfort she documented in her book, You Don’t Know What War Is.