Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said his country’s defences are preparing for another winter of Russian attacks on energy infrastructure- but this time around are prepared to fight back.
‘We are preparing for terrorist attacks on our energy infrastructure,’ Zelensky said. ‘This year we will not only defend ourselves, but also respond.’
Last winter, Moscow’s drones and missiles zeroed in on Ukraine’s power grid, hoping to erode the country’s will to resist Russia’s invasion by denying civilians heating. Ukraine said it was an effort to weaponise winter.
The looming wintry weather could further hamper battlefield movements in a conflict that is largely deadlocked, and compel the warring sides to focus more on long-range strikes, including drones which have played a key role in the war.
Russia fired 11 Shahed drones against targets deep inside Ukraine on Wednesday, with falling debris damaging power lines near a nuclear power plant in the country’s west, officials said.
Ukraine said it had intercepted all the overnight drones, but claimed falling drone wreckage in Khmelnytskyi caused damage to the local nuclear plant and knocked out electricity to more than 1,800 customers.
The plant is about 120 miles east of the border with Poland.
Washington-based think tank The Institute for the Study of War said Moscow ‘is likely trying to expand and diversify its arsenal of drones, missiles and guided bombs for strikes against Ukrainian critical infrastructure’ ahead of the change in weather.
‘Russia appears to be increasingly supplementing the use of Shahed… drones with cheaper and lighter domestically produced drone variants during strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure,’ it said.
Russian news reports have mentioned one such drone, Italmas, which reportedly has a range of about 120 miles, allowing Moscow’s forces to strike targets far beyond the front line.
Another is an upgraded version of the Lancet drone with an extended range, which has been used extensively on the battlefield.
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu visited his country’s forces in eastern Ukraine, his ministry said on Wednesday, meeting senior officers in the southern part of the Donetsk region to discuss preparations for the winter, according to the defence ministry.
The chief of the eastern group of forces, Lieutenant General Andrei Kuzmenko, reported on forming dedicated drone units in the area and on storm units’ tactics in capturing Ukrainian strongholds, the ministry said.
It also said that four Ukrainian drones had been shot down over Russia’s western Bryansk region early on Wednesday. Another was jammed and forced down near Sevastopol in Russia-occupied Crimea.
In Ukraine, at least three civilians were killed in the east and south over the previous 24 hours, and 22 people were injured in the west and south east, the presidential office reported on Wednesday.
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