KYIV, Ukraine — Russia targeted Ukraine’s already battered infrastructure with drones, rockets and cruise missiles on Friday, raining fire on cities around the country one day after President Volodymyr Zelensky wrapped up a two-day push in Europe for more, faster support.
On the ground, Russia has been increasing the pace of its winter offensive, with forces supported by fighter jets attacking across the eastern front, according to Ukraine’s military. Military analysts have said that Russia has made small tactical gains over the past week — often at great cost — but as of Friday morning there was no evidence of a major breakthrough despite the heavy fighting.
The Ukrainian Air Force said that Russia was using a combination of Iranian-made drones, surface-to-air missiles and cruise missiles fired in waves to evade air defense systems.
Since October, Russia has launched more than a dozen major strikes on Ukraine’s energy facilities, as well as many smaller attacks, in a campaign to impair the power supply and leave civilians without power, heat and light during the winter.
The extent of the damage of the strikes on Friday was not immediately clear, but power infrastructure was damaged, the state-owned power utility, Ukrenergo, said in a statement. “We have damages on several high-voltage infrastructure sites in the eastern, western and southern regions, which led to power outages in some areas,” the utility said.
Over Kyiv, the capital, Ukrainian fighter jets raced across the sky to intercept inbound missiles, and air defense systems thundered. There were no immediate reports of successful strikes in the city, but Kyiv’s major power provider announced emergency outages as a preventive measure. At least one Russian rocket was shot down over the capital, with debris landing on the roof of a house and a car, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a statement.
During the first wave of air attacks, around 4 a.m., Ukraine shot down five of seven drones launched from the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov and five of six Kalibr sea-based cruise missiles fired from a the Black Sea, the country’s Air Force said.
Russia also launched a large attack of nearly three dozen S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Belgorod in Russia and the occupied city of Tokmak in southern Ukraine, toward targets in Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia. Ukraine’s air defense system cannot shoot down the anti-aircraft missiles, the Air Force said.
Anatolii Kurtiev, the secretary of the Zaporizhzhia City Council, said in a statement that at least 17 missile strikes had been reported in less than an hour. It was the highest rate of missiles attacking the city has encountered since the start of the full-scale invasion nearly a year ago, he said. The extent of the damage and number of casualties were not yet known, he said early Friday.
In the northeastern city of Kharkiv, at least 10 explosions were reported overnight, Oleh Syniehubov, the head of the regional administration, said in a statement. They appeared to be aimed at critical infrastructure, but the scale of the damage was not immediately clear.
President Volodymyr Zelensky this week made a whirlwind European visit — only his second trip outside the country since the war began — pleading in London, Paris and Brussels for more and heavier weapons to fend off Russia’s new offensive.
On the eastern front, Russia continued to make slow progress in its effort to cut off Ukrainian troops defending the city of Bakhmut, the British Defense Ministry said on Friday. Bakhmut is a key target for Moscow, which sees it as key to its goal of taking the whole eastern Donbas region.
Further south, a Russian assault around the city of Vuhledar — which sits at the nexus of the southern and eastern front lines — has likely led to “particularly heavy casualties,” the British ministry said. “Russian troops likely fled and abandoned at least 30 mostly intact armored vehicles in a single incident after a failed assault,” it said.