Ukraine power plant destroyed as Russia launches widespread attacks on energy grid

Ukraine power plant destroyed as Russia launches widespread attacks on energy grid

Russian missiles and drones destroyed a large electricity plant near Kyiv and hit power facilities in several regions on Thursday, officials said, ramping up pressure on the embattled energy system as Ukraine runs low on air defences.

The major attack, more than two years since Russia's full-scale invasion, completely destroyed the Trypilska coal-powered thermal power plant near the capital, a senior official at the company that runs the facility told Reuters.

Unconfirmed footage shared on social media showed a fire raging at the large Soviet-era facility and black smoke belching out of it.

"We need air defence and other defence support, not eye-closing and long discussions," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on the Telegram messaging app, condemning the attacks as "terror."

Kyiv's appeals for urgent air defence supplies from the West have grown increasingly desperate since Russia renewed its long-range aerial assaults on the Ukrainian energy system last month.

Several one-story buildings are shown destroyed, with smoke rising and wooden and concrete debris littering the ground.
Rescuers work at the site of Russian airstrikes, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the village of Lyptsi, Kharkiv region, on Wednesday. (Volodymyr Pavlov/Reuters)

The attacks, which hammered thermal and hydroelectric power plants, have sparked fears about the resilience of an energy system that was hobbled by a Russian air campaign in the war's first winter.

'Everything is destroyed'

Ukraine's air force commander said air defences took down 18 of the incoming missiles and 39 drones. The attack used 82 missiles and drones in total, the military said.

The destroyed power plant outside Kyiv, a major power supplier for the Kyiv, Cherkasy and Zhytomyr regions, is the third and last facility owned by state-owned energy company Centrenergo.

"Everything is destroyed," Andriy Gota, head of the supervisory board of the company, said when asked about the situation at Centrenergo.

The Ukrenergo grid operator said its substations and power generating facilities had been damaged in attacks on the regions of Odesa, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lviv and Kyiv.

Ukraine's largest private electricity company, DTEK, which lost 80 per cent of its generating capacity during Russia's March 22 and March 29 attacks, said Russia's attacks hit two of its power stations, inflicting serious damage.

Kharkiv electricity supply also affected

The strikes also attacked two underground storage facilities where Ukraine stores natural gas, including some owned by foreign companies, energy company Naftogaz said. The facilities continued to operate, it added.

"The situation in Ukraine is dire; there is not a moment to lose," said U.S. ambassador Bridget Brink, adding that 10 missiles struck critical infrastructure in the Kharkiv area alone.

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The region of Kharkiv, which borders Russia and already has long, rolling blackouts in place, was forced to cut electricity for 200,000 people, presidential aide Oleksiy Kuleba said.

Ukraine has warned it could run out of air defence munitions if Russia keeps up the intensity of its strikes and that it is already having to make difficult decisions about what to defend.

There has been a slowdown in vital Western assistance and a major U.S. aid package has been blocked by Republicans in Congress for many months, Ukraine has said.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia's overnight attack used six ballistic missiles, which can hit targets within minutes and are much harder to shoot down. Kyiv says that is why it needs U.S.-made Patriot air defences.

Bill on troop mobilization awaits president

Ukraine is also struggling to support its fatigued troops. Parliament passed a bill on Thursday to overhaul its army mobilization rules as Kyiv tries to generate fresh manpower.

The bill must be signed by  Zelenskyy — who on Thursday secured a defence partnership with Lithuania — before it becomes law. Zelenskyy said in December that the military wanted to mobilize up to 500,000 more troops, leading to the push for changes in laws.

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Here is an overview of what the changes entail:

  • Ukrainian men between 18 and 60 years of age would be required to update their personal data with the military authorities, allowing draft offices to see more easily who can be called up in any given region. 
  • The bill does not set any time limit for wartime military service, meaning that soldiers who have been fighting since the beginning of the full-scale invasion still have no sense of when they will be demobilized. An earlier draft of the bill had proposed setting a time limit.
  • The bill proposes offering financial perks for people who volunteer to fight in the army and sign an army contract. In particular, those bonuses could include a certificate to buy a vehicle and financial assistance for first mortgage payments.
  • The bill would abolish mandatory conscription for Ukrainian men aged 18 or older, and replace it with basic military training for all men starting from September 2025.
  • One new provision in the bill would allow people who have been convicted and given a suspended sentence to serve in the army. Convicts are currently banned from any type of military service.
  • After being mobilized, all men must undergo compulsory training before being sent to a combat area.