Russian strikes damage Ukrainian power facilities, two workers hurt

By Olena Harmash

KYIV (Reuters) -A new barrage of Russian missiles and drones damaged energy facilities in southeastern and western Ukraine on Saturday, wounding at least two energy workers and forcing record electricity imports, officials said.

National grid operator Ukrenergo said equipment at its facilities in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region and Lviv in the west had been damaged in the second large Russian air attack this week. Two workers in Zaporizhzhia were taken to hospital for treatment, it said.

The Russian strikes also hit a gas infrastructure facility in the west of the country, the energy ministry said.

"After eight massive attacks by the enemy on the power system since March, the situation in the energy sector remains difficult," it added in a statement.

Russia's Defence Ministry said its forces had used long-range missiles fired from aircraft and ships, and drones, to strike ammunition depots and energy facilities that it said supported military production.

Ukraine's navy said it was the first time since Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 that Russian forces had launched missiles from the Sea of Azov rather than the Black Sea.

"This is an important turning point, because they use it, considering it a safer water area than the Black Sea," Ukrainian navy spokesperson Dmytro Pletenchuk told local television.

Ukraine's air defence shot down 12 of 16 missiles and all 13 drones launched by Russia, the air force said. The air alerts in Ukrainian regions lasted for several hours in the middle of the night.

RECORD IMPORTS

Ukraine's energy ministry said the strikes meant the country would import a record 33,559 megawatt hours (MWh) of power on Saturday. The government would also have to expand by several hours scheduled electricity cut-offs across the country.

At the bombed power facilities in Zaporizhzhia and Lviv, firefighters fought to put out fires and repair squads raced to fix the damage, regional officials said.

Lviv's regional governor, Maksym Kozytskyi, said 67 firefighters and 12 special vehicles were involved in putting out the fire in his region on Ukraine's Polish border.

Also in the west of Ukraine, in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk, the strikes damaged a building of an oil and gas university and 14 other commercial and residential buildings, the mayor said.

Moscow has said airstrikes against Ukrainian energy infrastructure were in retaliation for Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian territory.

Since March, Russian forces have intensified their bombardments of Ukraine's power system, knocking out about half of the country's available generating capacity and causing an energy crunch that has led to increasingly frequent blackouts.

In the capital Kyiv and other cities, the hum of private generators can be heard constantly despite lower levels of electricity consumption during the summer.

(Reporting by Olena HarmashEditing by Sharon Singleton and Helen Popper)