Ukraine Blunts Russian Missile Attack, but Power Grid Takes a Hit

December 17, 2022Nolan Peterson
Russian missile attack

The aftermath of a Russian missile strike in the Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih on Dec. 16, 2022. Photo by the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

KYIV, Ukraine — For the second time this week, residents in Ukraine’s capital city began their day to the sounds of explosions from a long-range Russian attack. An 8:10 a.m. air raid alert spurred some to seek shelter in basements and underground metro stations. The booms that began shortly thereafter spurred many to follow suit.

The capital city’s metro shut down as civilians filed into the stations. They sat on the stopped escalator steps and the platforms, bundled up against this morning’s subfreezing temperatures with their eyes glued to their smartphones for updates about the attack. Similar scenes played out in apartment block bomb shelters across Kyiv.

“Waking up from explosions, it is not something you can ever get used to. You wake up in one second and run to the corridor hoping that everything is ok. We have missed the air raid alert during our sleep, so here it is. Massive missile attack from russia,” Kyiv resident Anastasiia Holiachenko wrote Friday on Twitter.

Inside a basement bomb shelter during a Russian missile attack against Kyiv on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die Magazine.

On Friday, Dec. 16, Russia launched a massive sea- and air-based cruise missile attack against critical infrastructure targets across Ukraine, causing blackouts and interrupting access to water and heating for millions of Ukrainians. One missile struck a residential building in the city of Kryvyi Rih, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s hometown, killing three people and wounding at least 13.

According to Ukraine’s air force, countrywide air defenses destroyed 60 of the 76 missiles Russia fired today. Even so, enough missiles hit their targets to significantly damage critical infrastructure facilities across the country. After today’s attack, Ukraine’s national energy company, Ukrenergo, reported, “The electricity shortage in the system, which was substantial even before that, has significantly increased.”

Marking one of the largest attacks against Kyiv since the full-scale war began on Feb. 24, 40 Russian missiles targeted the capital city. Of that number, air defenses shot down 37, Kyiv’s city military administration reported. The strikes wounded three people in Kyiv, and damaged nine homes and one critical infrastructure site.

“Grateful for the work of Ukraine’s air defense amid more escalatory Russian attacks this morning on civilian infrastructure in Kyiv and around the country,” Bridget Brink, US ambassador to Ukraine, wrote on Twitter.

Russia launched 13 Iranian-made, Shahed-136 exploding drones at Kyiv on Dec. 14. Ukrainian air defenses downed all 13.

Shortly after a Russian missile attack on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022, life returns to normal in Kyiv. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Apart from Kyiv, today’s strikes created power outages in other cities and settlements, including Kharkiv, Kremenchuk, and Poltava.

“There is colossal damage to infrastructure, primarily the energy system,” Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov wrote on Telegram. “I ask you to be patient with what is happening now. I know that in your houses there is no light, no heating, no water supply.”

A resident in the central Ukrainian city of Horishni Plavni told Coffee or Die Magazine via text message at 5 p.m. that the city still had no electricity, water, or heating.

According to Ukraine’s air force, Friday’s attack comprised missiles fired from the Admiral Makarov frigate in the Black Sea, Kh-101 and Kh-555 cruise missiles launched from the Caspian Sea region, and Kh-22 missiles fired from Tu-22M3 bombers over the Sea of Azov. Other Russian warplanes fired Kh-59 and Kh-31P air-to-surface missiles, Ukraine’s air force reported.

With its invasion force losing ground to sequential Ukrainian counteroffensives, Russia has reverted to a standoff offensive against Ukraine’s utilities, a gambit meant to cause civilian suffering and cripple the country’s economy. Friday’s barrage marked the “ninth wave of missile strikes on energy facilities” since the full-scale war began in February, Ukrenergo wrote on Facebook.

Generators have become a common sight in Kyiv as Russian missile strikes targeted the power grid in December 2022. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die Magazine.

The Kyiv City State Administration alerted residents that air raid sirens may not sound during power outages and to stay alert for loudspeaker announcements. Many Ukrainians also use smartphone apps and Telegram channels as ways to monitor air raid alerts, as well as updates from city officials and the military.

Russia’s missile and exploding drone attacks typically occur during weekday morning hours, catching many residents in bed or on their way to work. Despite the danger, rush hour traffic persisted on Kyiv’s main thoroughfares on Friday morning, highlighting how the momentum of metropolitan life does not screech to a halt during a missile attack.

Immediately after the air raid alert ended at 12:19 p.m., life snapped back to its normal rhythms. Within minutes of sheltering underground from Russian cruise missiles, one could be shopping at a mall with Elvis Presley’s “Here Comes Santa Claus” humming in the background as part of a nonstop playlist of American Christmas classics.

By 5 p.m., water remained cut off for much of the city. Power outages, however, were less uniform. The lights were still on in many buildings in the city center near Bessarabska Square and in the historic Lypky neighborhood.

Despite Russia’s attacks against the power grid in December 2022, the lights remain on in Kyiv. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die Magazine.

The frequent interruption of basic utilities has generated new daily habits. Power banks are always kept charged, and it’s important to know where the nearest generator and reliable Wi-Fi connection are located. Tubs are kept full with water for household needs, and most people have stocked their homes with multiple barrels of purified drinking water. Also, the blanket of fresh snow on the ground offers a backup source of fresh water. There is no shortage of food, but living with interrupted access to electricity, water, and heating is a tough proposition during Ukraine’s notoriously brutal winter months.

Nevertheless, Ukrainians remain overwhelmingly committed to their resistance against Russia’s full-scale invasion. According to a nationwide poll conducted from Nov. 21 to 22 by the Ukrainian research group, Rating, 97% of Ukrainians are sure their country will defeat Russia.

“Our victory can’t come soon enough,” said Kyiv businessman Yaroslav Hashek, whose family left Ukraine to live abroad when the full-scale war began.

“I want to see my family again.”

Read Next: Russia Attacks Kyiv Again With Iranian Drones

Nolan Peterson
Nolan Peterson
Nolan Peterson is a senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine and the author of Why Soldiers Miss War. A former US Air Force special operations pilot and a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Nolan is now a conflict journalist and author whose adventures have taken him to all seven continents. In addition to his memoirs, Nolan has published two fiction collections. He lives in Kyiv, Ukraine, with his wife, Lilya.
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