Russia fires scores of missiles in one of its biggest attacks on Ukraine
By Tom Balmforth and Olena Harmash
KYIV (Reuters) - Russia fired more than 70 missiles at Ukraine on Friday in one of its biggest attacks since the start of the war, knocking out power in the second-biggest city and forcing Kyiv to implement emergency blackouts nationwide, Ukrainian officials said.
Three people were killed when an apartment block was hit in central Kryvyi Rih and another died in shelling in Kherson in the south, they said. Russian-installed officials in occupied eastern Ukraine said 12 people had died by Ukrainian shelling.
In an evening video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia still had enough missiles for several more massive strikes and he again urged western allies to supply Kyiv with more and better air defence systems.
Zelenskiy said Ukraine was strong enough to bounce back. "Whatever the rocket worshippers from Moscow are counting on, it still won't change the balance of power in this war," he said.
Kyiv warned on Thursday that Moscow planned a new all-out offensive early next year, around a year after its Feb. 24 invasion, in which wide areas of Ukraine have been shattered by missiles and artillery but little of it taken by Russian forces.
Russia has rained missiles on Ukrainian energy infrastructure almost weekly since early October after several battlefield defeats, but Friday's attack seemed to inflict more damage than many others, with snow and ice now widespread.
After some repairs, Ukrainian grid operator Ukrenergo lifted a state of emergency that forced it to impose blackouts. But Ukrenergo also warned that more time would be needed to repair equipment and restore electricity than in previous bombardments.
Russia flew warplanes near Ukraine to try to distract its air defences, Ukraine's air force said. Its army chief said 60 of 76 Russian missiles had been shot down but Energy Minister German Galushchenko said at least nine power-generating facilities had been hit.
Moscow says the attacks are aimed at disabling Ukraine's military. Ukrainians call them a war crime.
"They want to destroy us, and make us slaves. But we will not surrender. We will endure," said Lidiya Vasilieva, 53, as she headed for shelter at a railway station in the capital Kyiv.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said late on Friday that just a third of its residents had both heat and water and 40% electricity. The metro system - a crucial transport artery - remained shut down, he added.
Zelenskiy urged Ukrainians to be patient and called on regional authorities to be more creative in arranging emergency supplies of energy.
The northeastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest, was also badly hit, knocking out electricity, heating and running water. Interfax Ukraine news agency cited regional governor Oleh Synehubov as saying later on Friday that 55% of the city's power was back up, and 85% in the surrounding region.
Liudmyla Kovylko, cooking at an emergency food distribution point, said life must go on. "We heard explosions, the power went out. People need to be fed. We're cooking on a wood stove."
Russian forces occupy around a fifth of Ukraine - in its south and east, and many soldiers have been reported killed and wounded on both sides in brutal fighting, although neither issues detailed reports of their own military casualties.
Russian-installed officials said the latest Ukrainian shelling had killed civilians in two places.
Eleven people were killed, 20 wounded and another 20 were missing in the village of Lantrativka near the border with Russia in the Russian-held Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, Russia's TASS news agency said, citing emergency services.
The Russian-installed governor of the region, Leonid Pasechnik, called the attack "barbaric".
Reuters was unable to immediately verify the latest battlefield accounts.
Ukraine had shot down 37 out of 40 missiles fired at the Kyiv area, Kyiv military spokesperson Mykhailo Shamanov said, calling Friday's missile volley one of Russia's heaviest.
"The goal of the Russian Federation is for Ukrainians to be constantly under pressure," Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko wrote in a social media post.
PARTIAL REPAIRS TO GRID
The country has restored much of its power and water supply after previous attacks but that task has got harder each time.
Ukrainian small and medium-sized businesses have imported about half a million power generators, but the country needs thousands more that are bigger and stronger to get through winter, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.
With no peace talks in sight, Ukrainian defence chiefs on Thursday predicted Russia would launch a new all-out offensive early next year that could include a second attempt to take Kyiv, which they tried and failed to capture early this year.
A new assault could happen as soon as January, Zelenskiy, General Valery Zaluzhniy and General Oleksandr Syrskiy were quoted as saying in interviews with The Economist magazine.
The push could be launched from the eastern Donbas area, the south or neighbouring Belarus, they said.
A Russian defence ministry video showed exercises by Russian and Belarusian troops in Belarus using tanks, machine guns and drones and crossing a river. In Washington, White House spokesman John Kirby said there was no indication of any imminent move on Ukraine from Belarusian soil.
Russia calls its invasion a "special military operation" to disarm and "denazify" Ukraine. Thousands of people have been killed, cities reduced to ruins and millions forced from their homes in what the West says is an imperial-style land grab.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaux; writing by Stephen Coates, Philippa Fletcher and Mark Heinrich; editing by Michael Perry, Nick Macfie, Cynthia Osterman and Andrew Heavens)