(KYIV) — On Tuesday, Russia hit Ukraine’s energy facilities with its largest ever volley of missiles, hitting targets across the country and causing massive power outages. A senior US intelligence official said missiles flew through NATO member Poland, where two people were killed.
A second person confirmed to The Associated Press that apparently Russian missiles had struck a location in Poland about 15 miles from the Ukrainian border.
Russia’s defense ministry denied it was behind “any strikes on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish border” and said in a statement that photos of alleged damage had “nothing to do” with Russian weapons.
A NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the alliance was investigating reports of a strike in Poland. The US National Security Council said it was also looking into the reports.
Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller did not immediately confirm the information from the US intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation. But Mueller said senior leaders were holding an emergency meeting because of a “crisis situation.”
Polish media reported that two people were killed on Tuesday afternoon after a shell hit an area where grain was being dried in Przewodów, a Polish village near the border with Ukraine.
Neighboring Moldova was also affected. It reported massive power outages after the strikes cut a key power line that powers the tiny nation, an official said.
The missile strikes plunged much of Ukraine into darkness and prompted defiance from President Volodymyr Zelensky, who waved his fist and declared: “We will survive everything.”
Zelensky said Russia had fired at least 85 missiles, most of them aimed at the country’s energy facilities, and blockaded many cities.
Its energy minister said the attack was the “most massive” bombing of energy facilities in the nearly nine-month Russian invasion, hitting both power generation and transmission systems.
Minister Herman Halushchenko described the missile strikes as “another attempt at terrorist revenge” following the Kremlin’s military and diplomatic setbacks. He accused Russia of “trying to do maximum damage to our energy system on the eve of winter.”
The airstrike, which killed at least one person in an apartment building in the capital Kyiv, followed days of euphoria in Ukraine sparked by one of the biggest military successes – last week’s recapture of the southern city of Kherson.
The power grid has already been affected by previous attacks that destroyed around 40% of the country’s power infrastructure.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not commented on the retreat from Kherson since his troops withdrew in the face of a Ukrainian offensive. But the stunning scale of Tuesday’s strikes spoke volumes and hinted at anger in the Kremlin.
By striking targets in the late afternoon, just before nightfall, the Russian military forced rescuers to work in the dark and gave repair crews little time to assess the damage in daylight.
More than a dozen regions – including Lviv in the west, Kharkiv in the northeast and others in between – reported strikes or attempts by their air defenses to shoot down missiles. At least a dozen regions reported power outages affecting cities that together have millions of people. Almost half of Kyiv region remained without electricity, authorities said. Ukrainian Railways announced train delays across the country.
Zelensky warned that more strikes were possible and urged people to stay safe and seek shelter.
“Most of the hits were registered in the center and in the northern part of the country. In the capital, the situation is very difficult,” said high-ranking official Kyrylo Tymoshenko.
He said a total of 15 energy targets were damaged and claimed 70 missiles were downed. A Ukrainian Air Force spokesman said Russia used X-101 and X-555 cruise missiles.
As city after city reported attacks, Tymoshenko urged Ukrainians to “behave.”
With battlefield losses mounting, Russia has increasingly resorted to attacking Ukraine’s power grid, seemingly hoping to weaponize the approach of winter by leaving people in the cold and dark.
In Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said authorities found a body in one of three apartment buildings hit in the capital, where energy supplier DTEK also announced emergency blackouts.
A video released by a presidential aide showed a five-story, apparently residential building in Kyiv in flames, with flames licking up the apartments. Klitschko said air defense units also shot down some missiles.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra went to a bomb shelter in Kyiv after a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, and from his safe seat described the bombing as “huge motivation to continue to stand side by side” with Ukraine.
“There can only be one answer and that is: Carry on. Keep supporting Ukraine, keep supplying weapons, keep working on accountability, keep working on humanitarian aid,” he said.
Ukraine has experienced a period of relative calm since the previous waves of drone and missile attacks a few weeks ago.
The strikes came as authorities were already working furiously to get Kherson back on its feet and began investigating alleged Russian abuses there and in the surrounding area.
The southern city is without electricity and water, and the head of the UN human rights office’s monitoring mission in Ukraine, Matilda Bogner, on Tuesday condemned the “terrible humanitarian situation” there.
Speaking from Kyiv, Bogner said her teams wanted to travel to Kherson to try to verify claims of nearly 80 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions.
Ukraine’s National Police chief Igor Klymenko said authorities would begin investigating reports from Kherson residents that Russian forces had set up at least three alleged torture sites in already liberated parts of the wider Kherson region and that “our people they may have been detained and tortured there.
The recapture of Kherson dealt another heavy blow to the Kremlin. Zelensky likened the recapture of the Allied landings in France to D-Day in World War II, saying both were watershed events on the road to ultimate victory.
But large parts of eastern and southern Ukraine remain under Russian control and fighting continues.
Zelensky warned of possible more gloomy news.
“Everywhere we liberate our land, we see one thing – Russia leaves behind torture chambers and mass burials. … How many mass graves are there in the territory that still remains under Russian control?” asked Zelensky.
Associated Press writers Joanna Kozlowski in London, Jamie Keaton in Geneva, Mike Corder in The Hague, Hanna Arkhirova in Kherson and Juras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia contributed to this story.
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