More than a dozen Russian missiles pounded critical infrastructure across Ukraine on Saturday, the Ukrainian air force said, with several regions reporting strikes on energy facilities and power outages.
At the same time, Russian occupation authorities in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson urged civilians to leave immediately citing what they called a tense military situation.
The Ukrainian military said it was making gains as its forces moved southward through Kherson region, taking over at least two villages it said Russian troops had abandoned.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy wrote on the Telegram app regarding Russian attacks on infrastructure that began overnight: “The enemy launched a massive attack: 36 rockets, most of which were shot down.”
The air force command earlier had said 33 missiles had been fired at Ukraine on Saturday morning, adding that 18 of them had been shot down.
Since October 10, Russia has launched devastating salvos at Ukraine’s power infrastructure, which have hit at least half of its thermal power generation and up to 40% of the entire system.
Shortly after daybreak on Saturday, officials in regions across Ukraine began reporting strikes on energy facilities and power outages as engineers scrambled to restore the network. Governors advised residents to stock up on water.
Parts of Kyiv suffered power cuts into the early evening. In one central area of the capital, shops were closed and traffic lights were off.
Reuters witnesses in the southern city of Mykolaiv reported a power cut over several hours, disrupting mobile phone signals.
In the southeastern city of Nikopol, which is regularly shelled from Russian positions across the Dnipro River, local authorities warned that air raid sirens would be switched off as a result of power cuts, and that instead emergency vehicles driving around the city would warn of incoming aerial threats.
Presidential adviser Kyrylo Tymoshenko said that as of Saturday afternoon, more than a million people were without power, including 672,000 in the western region of Khmelnytskyi.
After a first wave of missiles in the morning, air raid sirens sounded again nationwide at 11.15 a.m. (0815 GMT).
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said Moscow wanted to create a new wave of refugees into Europe with the strikes, while Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter they constituted genocide.
Moscow has acknowledged targeting energy infrastructure but denies targeting civilians.
State grid operator Ukrenergo said the attacks targeted transmission infrastructure in western Ukraine, but that supply restrictions were imposed in 10 regions, including in Kyiv.
“The scale of damage is comparable or may exceed the consequences of the attacks (between) October 10-12,” Ukrenergo wrote on the Telegram app, referring to the first wave of strikes on the power system last week.
The deputy head of Kyiv’s city administration, Petro Panteleev, warned Russian strikes could leave Ukraine’s capital without power and heat for “several days or weeks”.
“This possibility exists…we have to understand and remember this,” he told news outlet Ekonomichna Pravda.
In Kherson, which links Ukraine to the Crimea peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, thousands of civilians have been leaving in recent days across the Dnipro River after warnings of a looming Ukrainian offensive to recapture the city.
But Saturday’s warning was delivered with renewed urgency.
“Due to the tense situation at the front, the increased danger of massive shelling of the city and the threat of terrorist attacks, all civilians must immediately leave the city and cross to the left (east) bank of the Dnipro!” Russian occupation authorities said a statement posted on Telegram.
Ukraine’s General Staff, in its evening report on Facebook, said Ukrainian forces were moving into areas of the region being abandoned by Russian forces.
“Individual units of Russian occupying forces continue to leave the temporarily occupied territory of Kherson region,” the report said.’
It said Russian forces had left the towns of Charivne on the west bank of the Dnipro and Chkalovo on the east bank and officers and medical staff had been evacuated from the major centre of Beryslav, also on the river’s west bank.