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Ukraine updates: Russia renews major missile attacks

March 9, 2023

Ukraine has been hit by a wave of missile attacks for the first time in weeks, which earlier cut power to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. Power to Europe's largest nuclear plant has since been restored. DW has more.

Black smoke rises above an infrastructure facility in the Holosiivskyi district during Russia's mass missile attack on Ukraine, Kyiv
Ukraine's military said Russia launched multiple missiles targeting critical infrastructure across the countryImage: Photoshot/picture alliance

Russia unleashed a massive missile barrage on Thursday targeting infrastructure across cities in Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said early Thursday.

Air raid sirens sounded across the country, including the capital, Kyiv. The wave of attacks is the first of its kind in three weeks.

Ukrainian officials said that at least five people had been killed in the wave of attacks, four of whom were killed in the western Lviv region and one in the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said, "Two people were injured" in the Svyatoshynsky district of the capital following the strikes.

The governor of the northeastern Kharkiv region, Oleh Syniehubov, said there had been more than 15 strikes on Ukraine's second-largest city of Kharkiv. "Objects of critical infrastructure are again in the crosshairs," Syniehubov said in a Telegram post.

In the southern Odesa region, Governor Maksym Marchenk said energy facilities and residential buildings had been hit in strikes. "Fortunately, there were no casualties," he said but added that "power supply restrictions" were in place.

Russia's renews missile attacks: DW's Amien Essif reports

The attacks were reported to have struck a wide arc of other targets. Explosions were also reported in the cities of Chernihiv, Dnieper, Lutsk, and Rivne, as well as the western Lviv region.

"This was a major attack and for the first time with so many different types of missiles...The enemy launched six Kinzhals [hypersonic missiles]," air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said. "It was like never before."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said it had been "a difficult night" but added that Russia would not get away with "terrorizing civilians."

"The occupiers can only terrorize civilians. That's all they can do. But it won’t help them. They won’t avoid responsibility for everything they have done," Zelenskyy said.

Moscow has been launching massive missile attacks against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, in particular targeting energy infrastructure and often plunging whole cities into darkness, since last October.

The barrages were initially weekly but eventually became more intermittent, leading to speculation that Moscow may be saving up ordnance. The last major wave was on February 16.

Russia's renewed attacks across Ukraine

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Thursday, March 9:

Renewed calls for allies to send warplanes to Ukraine 

Poland and Slovakia have urged allies to provide fighter aircraft to Ukraine, with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda telling CNN on Wednesday that Warsaw was ready to provide Soviet-made MiG-29 jets to Kyiv. 

AP news agency cited a defense ministry statement which said that Poland “is ready to hand over our MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine as part of an international coalition.” 

"I think it's time to make a decision. People in Ukraine are dying. We can really help them," Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said in a Facebook post. "This is inhumane and irresponsible." 

Kyiv has been pushing for fighter jets to help in the defense against Russia’s invasion. There are no indications as yet that allies will provide warplanes, although countries like the UK have said they would train fighter pilots in “advanced combat aircraft.” 

In February, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak  said “nothing is off the table,” in relation to the possibility of the UK providing fighter jets. 

Power restored at Zaporizhzhia power plant 

Ukraine’s power utility says the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been reconnected to the country’s power grid.  

"Ukrenergo specialists have restored energy supplies to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which was interrupted by today's missile strikes," the company said in a social media post. 

In the wake of Russia's wave of airstrikes, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant — the largest in Europe — was disconnected. 

The plant was forced to run on diesel generators for much of Thursday, with enough fuel for 10 days. The fifth and sixth reactors were also shut down, Energeoatom said. 

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi expressed anger over the incident. 

"This is the sixth time — let me say it again SIXTH time, that [Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant] has lost all off-site power and has had to operate in this emergency mode," he wrote in a statement. "Let me remind you — this is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. What are we doing? How can we sit here in this room this morning and allow this to happen? This cannot go on." 

The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell said Russia's attacks were endangering Europe.

"This is a serious breach to the nuclear safety, caused by Russia," Borell told reporters in Stockholm.

"Russia is putting in danger the entirety of our joint European continent, Russia included," he added.

The nuclear power plant is occupied by Russian forces and Thursday marks the sixth time since the occupation began that the facility has lost power. Previous incidents have triggered a site inspection by the IAEA. 

Russia's own nuclear energy operator Rosenergoatom confirmed that power had been cut, but said that it was Ukraine that had cut the power. 

IAEA chief renews call for Zaporizhzhia safe zone

Lithuanian intelligence says Russia could continue war for two more years

Lithuania's military intelligence chief has said that Russia has enough resources to continue its war in Ukraine for another two years.

"The resources which Russia has at the moment would be enough to continue the war at the present intensity for two years", Elegijus Paulavicius told reporters in Vilnius.

"How long Russia is able to wage the war will also depend on the support for Russia's military from states, such as Iran, North Korea. But if you look at what Russia has today, such as the strategic reserve, equipment, ammunition, armaments - it can wage it at the present intensity for two years", he added.

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began just over a year ago but it quickly became clear that a rapid Russian victory was not an option.

Ukraine's western backers have continued to pledge their support, but there have been warnings that this support may begin to wane as the war drags on.

Russia claims massive strikes were "retaliatory"

The Russian Defense Ministry has called the wave of airstrikes on Wednesday a "retaliation" after an alleged Ukrainian attack in the Russian border region of Bryansk.

"In response to the March 2 terrorist actions organized by the Kyiv regime in the Bryansk region, Russia's Armed Forces dealt a massive retaliatory strike," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Kyiv has previously distanced itself from Russia's claim of an attack carried out by Ukrainian forces in Bryansk and called it a "deliberate provocation."

The Russian ministry's statement also confirmed the use of Khinzhal hypersonic missiles in the attack.

Russia says it has issues with continuing the Black Sea grain deal

Moscow has said it still has questions over the possibility of continuing the Black Sea grain deal which will need approval for an extension this month.

The deal was brokered by the UN and Turkey as a means of allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported from ports on the Black Sea that had until then been blocked by Russian ships.

It first came into effect in July and was extended in November for 120 days. It is up again for renewal on March 18, but Moscow could block it.

"There are still a lot of questions about the final recipients, questions about where most of the grain is going. And, of course, questions about the second part of the agreements are well known to all," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Peskov was referencing previous complaints that Ukrainian grain was going primarily to wealthy countries, as well as the other side of the agreement was meant to keep Russian agricultural products also flowing, but which Russia says have been inhibited by sanctions on payments, logistics and insurance industries.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also shared similar sentiments, saying "if the package is half fulfilled, then the issue of extension becomes quite complicated."

Russia rejoins Ukraine grain export deal

Ukraine to join EU's joint gas-buying bloc

An EU scheme to jointly purchase gas as a single bloc will also include Ukraine, the EU's energy commissioner Kadri Simson said on Thursday.

"We have integrated Ukraine in the gas joint purchasing platform with a view to help secure 2 billion cubic meters of additional gas," Simson told EU lawmakers.

The bloc is expecting to sign its first contracts this summer.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent gas prices skyrocketing in Europe and has sent European states looking for alternative sources after having relied heavily on Russian gas for years.

Transnistria says it foiled Ukrainian assassination attempt

Pro-Russian separatists in the breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova have said that they foiled a plot to attack the region's capital which they say was planned by Ukraine.

Transnistria's security forces said in a statement that they had halted "a terror attack ... directed by Ukrainian security services, being prepared against a number of officials. The suspects have been detained. They have given confessions."

Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported that the attack had targeted the president of the breakaway region, Vadim Krasnoselsky.

The Russian agency also said that Ukrainian security forces had planned to carry out the attack in the Transnistrian capital Tiraspol.

Moscow has previously claimed, without providing evidence, that Ukraine was planning on invading the separatist region where Russian troops have been stationed since the 1990s.

Ukraine rejected the accusation as a form of provocation. 

"Any statements by representatives... of the fake 'People's Republic of Transnistria' regarding the participation of the SBU in the preparation of a terrorist attack should be considered exclusively as a provocation orchestrated by the Kremlin," Ukraine's SBU security service said in a statement.

Cities hit with power cuts after wave of airstrikes

The overnight strikes have left large parts of Ukraine once again without proper access to electricity.

In Kyiv, some 40% of households were left without heating on Thursday.

"Emergency power outages currently prevent 40% of Kyiv consumers from being provided with heating," the military administration said.

The country's second-largest city, Kharkiv, was deprived entirely of power, heating or even water, according to the city's mayor.

"There is no electricity in the whole city. We have switched to generators at critical infrastructure. Electric-powered transport is not working. There is no heating and water supply, due to the lack of voltage in the electricity network," Mayor Igor Terekhov said on local television.

Ukraine's national grid operator Ukrenergo said it had limited power in all regions during the strikes as a precaution. It added that the strikes had caused longer power cuts in at least three regions.

Ukraine says it shot down 34 cruise missiles

The Ukrainian air force said that Russian forces fired 81 missiles — of which six were Kinzhal hypersonic missiles — and eight drones in its Thursday morning barrage.

The statement also said that Ukraine shot down 34 missiles and four of the Iranian-made Shahed "kamikaze" drones. A further eight missiles and drones were prevented from hitting their targets, the air force added.

"The enemy fired 81 missiles in an attempt to intimidate Ukrainians again, returning to their miserable tactics. The occupiers can only terrorize civilians," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an online statement.

Ukrainian air defenses are unable to intercept Kinzhal hypersonic missiles.

More on the war in Ukraine

The European Union is looking at how to boost ammunition supplies in both the short and long term at a meeting in Stockholm. A top EU official has called for "a war economy."

German authorities searched a vessel suspected of involvement in Nord Stream pipeline explosions, the German Prosecutors Office said. German ministers warned against hasty conclusions about responsibility for the blasts.

EU countries agreed to buy more shells to help Ukraine but still have to work out the specifics. Ukraine and the UN called for an extension of the Black Sea grain deal. Read Wednesday's updates here.

kb, ab, rc/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)