Fresh Russian strikes hit cities across Ukraine on Thursday, the latest in a wave of attacks that have crippled the country’s energy infrastructure as winter sets in and temperatures drop.
Repeated barrages have been disrupting electricity and water supplies to millions of Ukrainians, but the Kremlin blamed civilians’ suffering on Kyiv’s refusal to negotiate, rather than Russian missiles.
AFP journalists in several Ukraine cites said the fresh strikes had come with snow falling for the first time this season and after officials in Kyiv warned of “difficult” days ahead with a cold spell approaching.
The salvoes came as Moscow and Kyiv confirmed the extension of an agreement allowing Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea, which aims to help the global supply of food.
Ukraine has faced a pounding series of strikes against its power grid following battlefield victories against Russia, the latest being Moscow’s retreat from the southern city of Kherson.
“Two cruise missiles were shot down over Kyiv. Information about any casualties and damage is being clarified,” the Kyiv regional administration announced, adding that Russian forces had also deployed Iran-made drones.
– ‘Difficult situation’ –
The head of the central region of Dnipropetrovsk Valentyn Reznichenko said Russian strikes hit the administrative centre of Dnipro.
“An industrial enterprise has been hit. There is a big fire,” he said, later announcing that 14 people were injured, including a 15-year-old girl.
In the southern Odessa region, a Russian strike also targeted infrastructure and the governor warned residents of the threat of a “massive” missile attack on the Black Sea territory.
“I ask the residents of the region to stay in shelters,” Maksym Marchenko said.
The eastern region of Kharkiv was also struck, governor Oleg Synegubov announced, adding that Russia hit “critical infrastructure” in strikes that injured three people.
President Volodymyr Zelensky published amateur footage of what he said showed a Russian strike on Dnipro, calling Moscow a “terrorist state” and saying Moscow “wants to bring Ukrainians only more pain and suffering.”
The Kremlin however said that ultimately Kyiv was to blame for the fallout from the blackouts.
“The unwillingness of the Ukrainian side to settle the problem, to start negotiations, its refusal to seek common ground, this is their consequence,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The largest wave of Russian missiles on cities across Ukraine earlier this week cut power to millions of homes but supplies were largely restored to people cut off within hours.
Ukrainian energy company Ukrenergo however said that “a cold snap” had brought increased demand in regions where electricity was recently restored.
“This has further complicated the already difficult situation with the power system,” the company said.
– ‘We don’t know for sure’ –
Tensions spiked earlier this week after a missile landed in a Polish town on the border with Ukraine, and there was a flurry of blame over who was responsible for the blast that killed two.
Zelensky, after previously saying a Russian missile was to blame, seemed to soften his public comments on the matter that had raised worries of a dangerous escalation.
“I don’t know what happened. We don’t know for sure. The world does not know,” Zelensky said.
“But I am sure that it was a Russian missile, I am sure that we fired from air defence systems. But it is impossible to talk about something specific today — that it was the air defence of Ukraine,” he added.
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, also appeared to roll back Kyiv’s determined position that it was a Russian missile that struck Poland following a call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We share the view that Russia bears full responsibility for its missile terror and its consequences on the territory of Ukraine, Poland and Moldova,” Kuleba said on Twitter.
Russia said images from the impact site showed a missile fired by Kyiv and said its strikes had targeted sites 35 kilometres (20 miles) from Poland’s border.