Russia bombs power plant; Ukraine launches duel attack on refinery

Before dawn on Saturday, as Russian missiles crisscrossed the skies over Ukraine, once again targeting the country’s energy grid, which had already been battered by extensive and complex artillery fire, Ukrainian drones flew in the opposite direction, striking critical targets. targeted oil and gas refineries and other targets. Within Russia.

The Ukrainian Air Force said its air defense team intercepted 21 of 34 Russian cruise and ballistic missiles launched from land, air and sea systems, but the attacks destroyed four thermal power plants and other critical power grids. It was announced that significant damage had been caused to the area. In three regions.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced that it shot down 66 Ukrainian drones over the Krasnodar region, east of occupied Crimea and across the Kerch Strait in southern Russia.

Local government chief Veniamin Kondratyev said Ukrainian drones targeted two oil refineries, an asphalt factory and a military airfield in the Kuban.

Ukraine’s Security Service, known as the SBU, announced that the Ukrainian military operation targeted the Krzychevsk airfield and the Irsky and Slavyansk oil refineries. The agency said in a statement that the airfield is home to “dozens of military aircraft, radars and electronic warfare equipment” and that “the SBU continues to effectively target military and infrastructure facilities behind enemy lines. “It reduces Russia’s chances of waging war,” he added.

It was unclear how much damage the drone strikes caused, as the Kremlin tightly controls information about attacks on Ukraine, making it often difficult to assess their impact.

Russia has also outlawed criticism of the war effort, aggressively suppressed voices deemed critical of the military and arrested hundreds of people as part of a broader crackdown on dissent. Russian authorities on Friday arrested Sergei Mingazov, a reporter for the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, for reposting information on social media about Russian atrocities at the start of the war, according to Russian officials and his lawyer Konstantin Bubon. did.

Russian authorities routinely deny or downplay the impact of Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil, but attacks on oil and gas facilities are difficult to hide. Britain’s military intelligence agency estimated last month that such an attack had caused damage. confused At least 10 percent of Russia’s oil refining capacity. On March 1, the Kremlin imposed a six-month ban on gasoline exports, apparently in an effort to avoid gasoline shortages and prevent domestic prices from rising.

Ukraine says it will use its growing fleet of indigenous long-range strike drones to step up attacks inside Russia, despite heightened tensions between Kiev and the US over attacks on oil and gas infrastructure. I swore. The Biden administration is be publicly criticized There were concerns that the attack could lead to further Russian retaliation and drive up prices in global energy markets.

“These attacks could have ripple effects on the global energy landscape,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III told Congress this month. “Ukraine would be better off pursuing tactical and operational objectives that could have a direct impact on the current fighting.”

The Biden administration’s stance is out of step with other allies who have supported Kiev’s use of indigenous weapons to attack what Ukraine considers legitimate military targets.

About a third of Russia’s state budget comes from oil and gas, and Ukrainian officials said the attack on the facility hit the heart of the Kremlin’s wartime economy. They also hope to undermine Russia’s war effort over time, as refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel are essential to sustaining large-scale troop movements. .

When asked this month about attacks on Russian oil and gas facilities, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: “Ukraine has the right to attack legitimate military targets outside its territory in order to defend itself.” Yes,” he said.

But Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s energy grid comes as Russia seeks to weaken Ukraine’s domestic arms industry, suppress its economy, deepen the suffering of millions of civilians, and undermine state functioning. The amount of damage is also increasing.

Since resuming heavy artillery bombardment of power generation facilities in late March, Russia has focused much of its attacks on thermal and hydroelectric power plants, which are used to keep the overall system in balance during peak usage. is important.

Before Saturday’s attack, Russia had already destroyed 80% of Ukraine’s thermal power generation capacity, energy officials said. Energy officials said the extent of the damage from the shelling was still unknown as of Saturday, but the cumulative effect was growing and could cause lasting problems.

“The massive damage Russia has recently caused cannot be repaired in weeks or months,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal said in a statement, urging people to “use electricity sparingly.”

U.S. military aid is flowing into Ukraine for the first time in months, but the country’s air defense system remains limited and ammunition is in short supply. Ukraine is particularly vulnerable to Russian ballistic missiles, which can only be routinely countered by state-of-the-art U.S.-made Patriot artillery batteries.

“We urgently need Patriot systems and missiles for them,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Friday at an online meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a coalition of about 50 countries that has been providing military and humanitarian aid to Kiev. Stated. “This is what can and should save lives right now.”

After Russia shelled Ukraine’s energy grid in the winter of 2022-23, Kiev’s allies supplied three Patriot batteries. However, the interceptor missiles they use are in short supply. Germany has announced it will soon supply a fourth Patriot battery, and Ukrainian authorities are engaged in an urgent diplomatic effort to secure more of the necessary systems and ammunition.

Ivan Necheplenko Contributed to the report.

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