Explosions rattled villages and cities across Ukraine on Thursday, damaging civilian infrastructure and killing at least three people in what Kyiv has called one of Moscow’s biggest missile barrages since the war began in February.
Authorities have been cautioning for days that Russia was preparing to launch an all-out assault on the power grid to close out 2022, plummeting the country into darkness as Ukrainians attempt to ring in the New Year and celebrate the Christmas holidays, which for the country’s Orthodox Christians falls on January 7.
“Russian terrorists have been saving one of the most massive missile attacks since the beginning of the full-scale invasion for the last days of the year,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Twitter Thursday. “They dream that Ukrainians will celebrate the New Year in darkness and cold. But they cannot defeat the Ukrainian people.”
When Anastasiia Hryn, a 34-year-old Kyiv resident, woke up to the sound of air raid sirens followed by an explosion, she and her son descended to the basement shelter beneath their building. But they were not particularly surprised, nor did they let it dampen their spirits.
“I expected this kind of attack before the New Year. There were reports in the news that something like that was being prepared,” she told CNN.
After the sirens gave the all clear, life in the capital went back to normal, Hryn said: “In the elevator I met my neighbors with their child who were in hurry to get to the cinema for the new Avatar movie on time.” Parents took their children to school and people went to work, while others continued with holiday plans in defiance.
Anna Kovalchuk, another Kyiv resident, said she was determined not to let the Russians ruin her upcoming celebrations. “I’m more worried that most likely there will be no electricity on New Year’s Eve and the holiday will have to be spent in the dark. But I began to prepare myself for such a scenario in advance, stocked up on garlands, power banks, so the blackout would upset us, but not stop us,” she told CNN.
Elsewhere in the capital, Halyna Hladka stocked up on water as soon as the sirens sounded and quickly made breakfast for her family so they would have something to eat. After nearly two hours, they heard the sounds of explosions. “It seemed to me that they were really close to our area but it turned out to be air defense,” she told CNN. “Not a single attack will cancel the fact that we will celebrate the new year with the family.”
As the war looks set to stretch into another year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that Moscow will not negotiate with Kyiv on the basis of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s proposed 10-point peace formula, which includes Russia’s withdrawal from all Ukrainian territory, a path to nuclear safety, food security, a special tribunal for alleged Russian war crimes, and a final peace treaty with Moscow.
Lavrov told Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti that Zelensky was “nursing the illustion” that, with the aid of Western nations, he could force the withdrawal of Russia from Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that it annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and occupied areas of Ukraine’s Donbas, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, as well as bring Russia in front of international courts and pay reparations. “We will not talk to anyone under such conditions,” he said.
Still, he stressed Russia was open for diplomatic solutions, echoing comments made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent days that he wanted an end to the war. Putin’s claim that he is open to negotiating was roundly dismissed by Kyiv and the West as a ruse.
Power out in several regions ahead of New Year’s Eve
At least three people were killed and seven injured in the nationwide attacks, according to the Ukrainian State Emergency Service.
Russia’s onslaught on Thursday was aimed at the country’s electrical infrastructure, and knocked out power in several regions. Engineering crews were racing to restore services as the New Year’s holiday approaches this weekend.
Ukraine’s Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said that Lviv, Kyiv and Odesa were particularly hard hit, and experiencing emergency power outages – when the electricity is protectively turned off to diminish damage from the grid shorting out.
“Today the enemy carried out another massive attack on the energy infrastructure of Ukraine,” Halushchenko said in a post on Facebook. “Unfortunately, there is some damage to generation facilities and power grids.”
Forty percent of Kyiv residents were without power, mayor Vitali Klitschko said, adding that this was due to security measures taken by power engineers during the air raid alarm and that they were now working to resume services. “The city is supplying heat and water in normal mode,” Klitschko said on the messaging app Telegram.
At least three people, including a 14-year-old, were injured and two people pulled from a damaged home on Thursday, Klitschko said earlier. Homes, an industrial facility and a playground in the capital were damaged in attacks on Kyiv, according to the city military administration.
In western Ukraine, Lviv Mayor Andrii Sadovyi said 90% of the city was without power, cautioning that the city’s waterworks could also to stop working with electricity down.
Authorities in Odesa, in southern Ukraine, said that emergency power outages had been rolled out amid the missile attacks. “They are introduced due to the threat of missile attacks to avoid significant damage if the enemy manages to hit energy facilities,” DTEK, a utility company, said in a statement.
At least two people were killed in attacks on Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region. Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, said four rockets had hit the city — likely S300s — and that critical infrastructure was the intended target.
“Senseless barbarism.” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said those were the only words that came to mind watching Moscow launch a fresh wave of attacks on Ukrainian cities ahead of the New Year, adding there could be “no neutrality” in the face of such aggression.
The Ukrainian military said that the majority of cruise missiles fired at Ukraine on Thursday were intercepted, with its defense forces shooting down 54 of 69, according to preliminary data. Klitschko said 16 missiles were destroyed by Ukraine’s air defenses over Kyiv.
“The enemy keeps resorting to its missile terror against the peaceful citizens of Ukraine,” Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said on Telegram, adding that the Russians had launched air and sea-based cruise missiles, as well as anti-aircraft guided missiles such as the S-300 at energy infrastructure facilities. The Ukrainian military also shot down 11 Iranian Shahed drones, which are designed to detonate on impact, he said.
There were conflicting reports on the scale of the attacks. An adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, said in an earlier post that Russia had launched more than 120 missiles in the barrage, without offering further details. He said the intent of the attack was to “destroy critical infrastructure and kill civilians en masse.”
CNN’s Tim Lister, Irene Nasser and Josh Pennington contributed to this report.