Russia has carried out one of its biggest attacks on Ukraine, including nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles that struck cities and temporarily shut down power to Europe’s largest nuclear plant.
According to Ukrainian officials, of the more than 80 rockets fired, six were nuclear-capable hypersonic Kh-47 Kinzhal air-to-surface missiles. The attack has left most parts of Kiev without power.
Ukraine’s air force spokesman Yuriy Ignat said Russia had never fired so many Kinzels in one attack before, who said Russia only had dozens of missiles. The barrage included other types of missiles that Ukraine was unable to intercept, such as X-22 supersonic missiles.
According to nuclear power company Energoatom, Moscow’s targets were residential areas in Kiev and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya, which temporarily lost the power supply needed to cool its reactors. The plant, which has been under Russian control since March 2022, is no longer providing electricity to the Ukrainian grid.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Zaporizhia plant was forced to rely on diesel generators for the sixth time since the start of the war. In an emotional address to the IAEA board on Thursday, the agency’s director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, flagged the risk of a nuclear accident: “What are we doing? How can we sit in this room this morning and let this happen? This cannot continue.
“I’m politely appalled – what are we doing to stop this happening?” Grossi said. “Every time we are rolling a dice. And if we allow this to continue time after time then one day our luck will run out.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, said on Thursday that 40 percent of Kiev’s population was without electricity as a result of the strikes, along with some blackouts in other parts of the country.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the “indiscriminate” attacks on civilians and the energy grid as a “war crime”.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the attacks were in retaliation for last week’s incursion by pro-Ukraine militias into Russia’s Bryansk border region.
“In response to the terrorist acts in the Bryansk region held by Kiev on March 2, the military forces of Russia retaliated on a large scale,” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday. “The goal of the revenge strike has been met. Vital elements of the Ukrainian military and energy infrastructure have been affected.”
In addition to attacks on energy infrastructure, explosions were also reported in the capital city Kiev and the western Ukrainian region of Lviv, where officials said five civilians were killed.
“It’s been a difficult night. A massive rocket attack across the country,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Telegram post. “The occupiers can only terrorize civilians. That’s all they can do. But that will not help them. That will not absolve them of responsibility for what they have done.
Additional reporting by Henri Foy in Brussels and Anastasia Stoganei in Riga