Russia hits Ukraine power grid, gains dominance in the east

Kyiv — Russian missiles hit power facilities across Ukraine on Friday. A long-awaited Russian offensive is underway in the east, Ukrainian officials said, as President Volodymyr Zelensky returned from a tour of the western capital.

The Ukrainian military said in an evening update that Russian forces had launched more than 100 missiles across the country, carrying out 12 airstrikes and 20 artillery strikes. According to a Facebook post, 61 cruise missiles were destroyed.

German Energy Minister Garshchenko said Russia had hit six regional power installations with missiles and drones, causing power outages across much of Ukraine.

In Washington, the White House announced President Joe Biden’s Feb. 20-22 visit to Poland to express support for Kyiv before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24 and provide additional security. He said he would make it clear that the security assistance and support would come from the United States. America.

“The president will make it clear that the United States will continue to support Ukraine,” said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

Global rating agency Moody’s on Friday downgraded Ukraine’s sovereign rating to Ca as it expects a war with Russia to create long-term challenges for the country. According to Moody’s website, the rating means the debt is “probably in default or near default.”

The most recent Russian attack came as Zelensky ended an enthusiastically welcomed tour of the allies in Europe, but the fighter pledges he sought were not secured.

“London, Paris, Brussels, we have spent the last few days talking about how to strengthen our soldiers.

“This is about long-range missiles and tanks and the next level of cooperation, fighter jets.”

Russia has repeatedly attacked civilian infrastructure far from the front lines, leaving millions of Ukrainians without power, heat and water for days in the dead of winter.

Barrages often followed Ukrainian diplomatic or battlefield advances.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said 10 Russian missiles were shot down over the capital after sirens blared during the morning rush hour and weary civilians were evacuated.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Shmykhal said Ukraine lacks 44% of nuclear power and 75% of thermal power capacity.

“This is a deliberate targeting of infrastructure that keeps Ukrainians alive in the winter,” said Vedant Patel, deputy spokesman for the US State Department. Russia denies targeting civilians and says it is targeting the Kyiv war effort.

Ukraine is gearing up for a new offensive by Russia, and after months of setbacks, President Vladimir Putin wants to tout battlefield success ahead of the 24 February invasion anniversary. The Ukrainian governors of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk said the attacks had begun.

Putin will deliver a postponed annual showcase speech to parliament on Feb. 21, recognizing that parts of Donetsk and Luhansk, which were ruled by Russia-backed separatists last year, are now independent. It is a plan and a harbinger of an invasion.

If Russia can then fully occupy these out of the four provinces it claims to have annexed, Putin can claim that one of his main priorities has been achieved.

Russian progress

Moscow’s main focus in recent times has been Bakhmut, a small city from which most of its pre-war population of about 70,000 fled, Ukrainian forces say it and surrounding areas have come under renewed tank, mortar and artillery fire. rice field.

After months of static artillery firefights in what both sides called a “meat grinder”, Russian forces began to surround the city. Their army includes Wagner’s private army, which recruited tens of thousands of prisoners with the promise of amnesty.

Russia’s regular army can now deploy many of the more than 300,000 soldiers forced into service late last year.

The UK Defense Ministry said Wagner’s forces appeared to have advanced between two and three kilometers (one to two miles) since Tuesday, mainly north of Bahmut.

Ukrainian military analysts said supplies were still transiting, but they said they now threatened the main western access road to Bakhmut.

Britain also said Russian forces had made some advances near Vuhledar, a Ukrainian-held fort that was a linchpin between the southern and eastern fronts, but limited Russian interests there. It came at a high cost, probably including at least 30 armored vehicles abandoned, in one unsuccessful attack.

Ukrainian military positions at Vuhledar have been held since the war began, and this week’s attack was branded as a costly fiasco by some pre-war Russian military bloggers. Gray Zone, Telegram’s semi-official Wagner channel, said, “There’s a disaster happening around Vuhledar, and it’s happening again and again.”

Reuters was unable to confirm the battlefield report.

Ukraine is planning its own major military counteroffensive in the coming months to regain almost a fifth of Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia.

But it will likely wait until the West receives at least some new weapons, including the hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles it recently promised.

Olena Harmash