Ukrainians Focus on Resilience a Day After Major Russian Strikes
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainians raced to repair the damage and restart services on Saturday, a day after one of the heaviest Russian missile assaults on infrastructure killed at least five people and knocked out power and water in many of the country’s main cities.
With Ukrainians already on edge about further strikes, new explosions rang out over the port city of Odesa early Saturday, and air-raid alerts sounded across the country a few hours later. Midmorning, the Ukrainian general command warned that military jets were taking off from neighboring Belarus and that the whole of Ukraine was a potential target.
Early reports from Ukrainian officials on Saturday were of incoming missiles being intercepted. The country’s southern military command said that two incoming Russian missiles had been intercepted by its air defense in Odesa and caused no casualties.
Across the country, Ukrainian rescue and utility workers were working to restore electricity and water supplies knocked out in a large wave of strikes on power plants and electricity networks on Friday.
Ukraine’s general staff said on Saturday that the Russians had launched 98 missiles and 65 rockets fired from multiple-rocket systems aimed at civilian and energy infrastructure targets in that barrage. The military previously had put the figure at 76 missiles, and although it was not immediately clear why the count changed, information in the initial hours after an attack is frequently incomplete.
The State of the War
- The War in the Skies: Russia has resumed its drone attacks after a three-week lull, while the United States appears poised to send Ukraine a battery of Patriot missiles, its most advanced ground-based air defense system.
- The Next Front?: Using missiles and saboteurs, Ukraine is focusing on the strategically important city of Melitopol, ahead of an expected Ukrainian offensive to drive Russian forces from southern Ukraine.
- Aid for Ukraine: World leaders announced more than $1 billion in swift aid for Ukraine to repair vital infrastructure and survive what is already a brutal winter.
- Avoiding Questions: President Vladimir V. Putin will not hold his annual December news conference. The move comes as Russia’s economy falters and follows a series of military setbacks in Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials said that 60 missiles were shot down before they could reach their targets, but 14 regions lost power and running water in the hours after the strikes.
In the southern town of Kryvyi Rih, rescue workers pulled the body of an 18-month-old boy from the wreckage of a home in the early hours of Saturday, raising the death toll from a Russian missile strike the previous day to four. As missiles struck a power plant in the town on Friday, knocking out electricity in the city, a missile also hit a residential building. The toddler’s parents and a 64-year-old woman were killed in the strike, which also injured 13 others.
Since Ukraine succeeded in pushing back Russian forces and regaining territory on the battlefield in eastern and southern Ukraine in recent months, Moscow has turned to a strategy of attacking power plants and energy supplies to increase the pressure on the Ukrainian government by causing heightened suffering among the civilian population.
Ukrainians have responded with defiance, and the government has sought to bolster morale by repairing the damage as swiftly as possible.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that workers had begun repairs even before the air-raid warnings were lifted. “Our power engineers and repair crews have already started working during the air alert and are doing everything possible to restore generation and supply,” he said in his overnight speech to the nation. “It takes time. But it will be done.”
He called on the local authorities to partner with businesses to create additional neighborhood gathering points, called “invincibility centers,” where people can congregate to keep warm, share news and recharge their cellphones. Powered by generators or emergency electricity supplies, the centers have been set up in administration buildings, in shopping centers and in tents on streets around the country to provide some respite for people living without heating and power in freezing temperatures.
The city of Kherson, which has come under repeated Russian rocket and shell fire since Ukrainian forces recaptured it last month after Russian forces retreated across the Dnipro River, was hit again in recent days, Halyna Luhova, the head of the city military administration, said on Saturday.
“Part of the population is left without electricity, then our specialists restore it,” she said. “This is an ongoing process: A part is restored, then a part is damaged again.”
Withdrawing Russian troops destroyed much of Kherson city’s energy and utility systems, but the Ukrainian administration has already restored electricity in most areas, and 70 to 80 percent of the population has running water and heating, she said. Still, up to 10,000 people in an area close to the river’s edge have been living under constant attack with no power, heating or water at all, she said. “The situation there is extremely serious,” she said.
By Saturday morning, the Kyiv subway was running again, Mayor Ivan Klitschko said on the Telegram social media app. Water was back on, and electricity had been restored to a large part of the city.
“The water supply has been brought back to all residents of the capital,” he said. “Half of Kyiv citizens already have heating, and we are working to restore it to all residents of the city. Two-thirds of Kyiv residents are currently supplied with power.”
In a particularly defiant gesture, the mayor also announced on Facebook the reopening of a glass-bottomed footbridge in the city that had been damaged by missile strikes in October.
Oleksandr Chubko contributed reporting from Kherson.