Russia fired dozens of missiles at Ukraine on Wednesday, leaving swaths of the country and more than half of neighboring Moldova without power, in Moscow’s latest attempt to cripple civilian infrastructure.
Ukraine’s energy ministry said “the vast majority of electricity consumers were cut off” as a result of the barrage, with some cities, including the capital Kyiv and Lviv, left completely in the dark. Water, heating and internet access were also cut.
Officials said at least six people were killed and 36 wounded in the attacks.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter that he had instructed his ambassador to the UN to request an urgent meeting of the security council “following today’s Russian strikes”.
“Murder of civilians and ruining civilian infrastructure are acts of terror. Ukraine keeps demanding a resolute response of the international community to these crimes,” he added.
After suffering repeated defeats on the battlefield, Moscow has in the past two months increasingly turned to attacking Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. Zelenskyy has said that Russian attacks had damaged about half of the country’s energy infrastructure, resulting in much of the country being forced to endure regular rolling blackouts.
Ukraine’s air force said Russia launched about 70 cruise missiles on Wednesday and that 51 were shot down, as were five exploding drones.
Moldova, which backs Ukraine against Russia, was not attacked but its electricity supplies can be affected by disruption to Ukrainian infrastructure.
Andrei Spînu, Moldova’s vice-prime minister, wrote on Twitter: “Massive blackout in Moldova after today’s Russian attack on energy infrastructure. [Transmission system operator] Moldelectrica is working to reconnect more than 50 percent of the country to electricity.”
This is the first time one of Ukraine’s neighbors has suffered such disruption as a result of the war.
Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear operator, said the country’s last three fully functioning nuclear power stations were disconnected from the power grid as a precautionary measure after the Russian barrage.
The energy ministry said Wednesday’s attacks resulted in a temporary blackout of most thermal and hydroelectric power plants, while transmission facilities were also affected.
Financial Times reporters were with infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov when missiles struck Kyiv. His phone buzzed with news of each strike in real time.
“Something else was just hit,” he said after one alert. “Near the train station.”
Zelenskyy said before the attacks on Wednesday that Ukraine would build thousands of shelters to provide electricity, heating, water and the internet.
Calling them “points of invincibility”, Zelenskyy said 4,000 shelters had been prepared, with more planned.
“I am sure, by helping each other, we will all be able to get through this winter together,” Zelenskyy added.
The president also said that a newborn baby was killed overnight in a Russian missile attack on the maternity ward of Vilnyansk hospital in southern Zaporizhzhia province. The mother and doctor were pulled alive from the rubble.
The European parliament on Wednesday adopted the symbolic resolution of designating Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, citing Moscow’s strikes on civilian targets such as energy infrastructure, hospitals, schools and shelters as violations of international law.
Hours after the overwhelming vote, Roberta Metsola, president of the parliament, wrote on Twitter that the institution was “under a sophisticated cyber attack”.
“A pro-Kremlin group has claimed responsibility,” she added. “Our IT experts are pushing back against it and protecting our systems. My response: #SlavaUkraini [Glory to Ukraine].”
The UK, meanwhile, is stepping up its military support for Ukraine by sending helicopters and ammunition to the country, defense secretary Ben Wallace said.
Two British military Sea Kings are on their way to Ukraine while one has already arrived, the FT understands. They will provide search and rescue capabilities, the UK’s Ministry of Defense said.
The helicopters are the first piloted aircraft given by the UK to Ukraine since Russian president Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion in February. Few countries have provided aircraft to the country, although Ukraine has pleaded with western allies for fighter jets to defend its skies from Russian attacks.
The Royal Navy provided a six-week training program on the Sea Kings in the UK for 10 crews of Ukrainian soldiers and engineers, the MoD added.
The UK will provide an additional 10,000 artillery rounds to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia, Wallace said.
Additional reporting by Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe in London and the Associated Press