Anxiety among Ukrainian officials and residents has increased as a result of Russia’s targeting of Ukraine’s energy grid networks last year and the possibility of a resumption of such operations.
This week’s Russian drone attacks near a nuclear power plant in western Ukraine have rekindled fears among Ukrainian leaders and citizens about one of the worst effects of the conflict: a winter attack on their country’s energy infrastructure.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine responded angrily to the bombings on Wednesday, stating that it was “highly likely” that the power plant was the target. The strikes occurred close to the Khmelnytsky nuclear complex. They also caused the chief of the UN nuclear monitoring organization to issue another warning over the unstable state of nuclear safety in Ukraine.
Mr. Zelensky pledged on Wednesday night that if Moscow attempted to engulf his country in darkness and freezing once more, Ukraine would strike back at targets inside Russia.
He declared, “This year we will respond as well as defend ourselves.”
In contrast to a year ago, Kyiv has shown that it is capable of striking military targets located deep within Russia, and its fleet of long-range drones is currently expanding.
Even so, Ukraine is still far behind in long-range strike capabilities, and officials in both the West and Ukraine have cautioned that it is possible that the Kremlin is hoarding missiles in preparation for resuming its attack on the electricity grid as winter approaches.
On September 21, the Ukrainian air force claimed to have shot down 36 out of 43 Russian cruise missiles that were intended at locations throughout the nation, marking the first time in six months that Russian strikes had been particularly directed at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Partial blackouts were caused by the attacks in the areas of Rivne, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv, according to a statement from Ukrenergo, the state energy operator of Ukraine.
There haven’t been many known Russian missile strikes since then, which is a strangely peaceful stretch of time.
A representative for the Ukrainian southern command, Natalia Humeniuk, stated that this “may indicate a preparatory period for the enemy.”
About 61 percent of Ukraine’s capacity to generate energy was destroyed by Russia a year ago, along with the country’s water supply and internet connectivity. A large number of individuals bathed in buckets and lit their homes with candles. A further issue came from apartments without elevators and without power for cell phones.
Mr. Vales stated, “The blackouts are not the problem.” “Heating, water, and cellular service are nonexistent.” The pair said they were forced to use candles, a gas stove, a big power bank, and cans to preserve water after the elevator failed and the running water stopped in their apartment building on the fifth floor of the capital, Kyiv. Ms. Zubko said they would be better prepared for this winter.
Additionally, Ukrainian energy providers claim that this time around, they are more equipped to resist a Russian assault. They specifically stated that numerous damaged facilities had been restored, new equipment was prepared to supply backup capacity in the event of an attack, and defenses had been erected around vital infrastructure, such as power substations.
The largest private energy firm in Ukraine, DTEK, has a CEO named Maxim Timchenko. “We have learned our lessons from last winter,” he added.
At the Khmelnytsky plant, experts were present when the air raid alarms went out at 1:26 a.m. on Wednesday, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations, revealed. This was followed by two tremendous explosions.
According to the agency, one drone was shot down roughly three miles from the plant, while another was shot down about twelve miles away.
According to Ukrainian officials, they were part of a group of eleven drones that were attacking the area. According to Ukrainian officials, while they were all shot down, at least 20 people were hurt, and numerous homes and businesses sustained damage from falling debris.
The drones were shot down, so it’s hard to know for sure if the attack’s primary aim was the nuclear power plant, according to Ukraine’s Air Force spokesman, Yuriy Ihnat. He did note, though, that Russia had last year targeted the electricity connections that connected nuclear power reactors to the grid, and it was possible that they would use a similar tactic this year.
Ukraine should be offered any support package or system, no matter how old; as Mr. Ihnat said, “Russia may concentrate its attacks exactly where it did last year.”
The drone strike this week had no direct effect on the facility, and the explosions had no effect on how it operated or connected to the national electrical grid, according to a report from the U.N. agency.
According to the IAEA, the structures at the site with windows damaged by the shock waves included the training center and the gateway to the reactor buildings. Two of the plant’s eleven off-site radiation monitoring stations were not operational for a short while.
According to Mr. Grossi, “the fact that so many windows at the site were destroyed shows just how close it was.” “We might not have as much luck the next time.”