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Massive Russian attack targets Ukraine energy infrastructure

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KYIV — Russia launched a huge barrage of missiles and drones at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure overnight, leaving several cities without electricity and damaging the Dnipro hydropower plant, Ukraine’s biggest dam.

The attack put the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on the verge of a blackout, Ukraine’s energy ministry said. The Zaporizhzhia facility, the largest nuclear plant in Europe, has been occupied by Russia since 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Kremlin fired more than 60 drones and almost 90 missiles at Ukraine, targeting power plants and energy supply lines. Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Sumy, Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa and Khmelnytskyi were among the areas left without electricity, Zelenskyy said in a statement Friday morning. Ukrainian air defense forces reported shooting down 37 missiles and 55 drones.

Zelenskyy used the attack to plead for more military aid from Ukraine’s allies.

“There are no delays in Russian missiles, as in aid packages to our state,” he said. Shahed drones “do not have indecision, like some politicians. It is important to understand the cost of delays and delayed decisions,” Zelenskyy said.

EU leaders at a summit on Thursday disagreed over European financing of weapons for Ukraine. They asked the European Commission to “explore all options for mobilizing funding and report back by June.” There are similar delays in Washington, where a $60 billion military aid bill has been held up for months by political haggling in the U.S. Congress.

“Patriot systems must protect Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia, air defense is needed to protect people, infrastructure, houses and dams,” Zelenskyy implored. “The partners know exactly what is needed. They can definitely support it,” he added.

The overnight assault was the second massive attack against Ukraine in quick succession after several months of respite. It came soon after a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Germany’s Ramstein air base and a visit by U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to Kyiv.

At the same time, Washington has asked Ukraine to halt drone strikes on Russia’s oil refineries, out of fear of driving up crude oil prices and provoking retaliation, according to a report by the FT. Moscow attacked Ukraine’s energy infrastructure throughout 2023, before Kyiv successfully struck several oil refineries in Russia, causing financial damage to the Kremlin which still trades oil and gas despite sanctions.

Ukrhydroenergo, operator of the Dnipro hydropower plant, said the situation at the station “is under control” following the attack.

“Russians are trying to create a new ecological disaster, cynically hitting the hydroelectric facilities and the dam,” Ukrhydroenergo said in a statement.

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