The bombardment was the latest in a relentless assault on Ukraine’s energy systems that began early last month, and it reflected Moscow’s narrowed strategic options following a string of battlefield defeats including its retreat from Kherson city in the south.
With its ground forces battered and losing territory, Russia has resorted to long-range bombing, while it struggles to train and equip tens of thousands of new conscripts, many of whom may have no desire to fight in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s failing war.
After most Group of 20 leaders at a summit in Indonesia this week strongly condemned Russia’s war against Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday sought to shift the blame to Kyiv for the lack of electricity and heat in many parts of Ukraine — outages that were a direct result of Russia’s military strikes.
The blackouts occurred because of “the unwillingness of the Ukrainian side to solve the problem, to enter into negotiations,” Peskov said. Speaking to reporters, he claimed that Russia struck only targets of military significance and warned that Moscow would attain its goals in Ukraine either through peace talks or continued military action.
“First they negotiate, then they refuse to negotiate, then they pass a law that prohibits any kind of negotiations, then they say they want negotiations but public ones,” Peskov said, dismissing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call Wednesday for any negotiations to be held in public.
There seems to be limited or no willingness to give ground from either side, with Moscow insisting that Ukrainian territory it illegally annexed will forever be Russian land. Ukraine, meanwhile, is demanding Russia’s full withdrawal from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, which Russia annexed illegally in 2014.
The restoration of territorial sovereignty was part of a 10-point peace plan Zelensky presented to G-20 leaders this week. The plan also called for Russia to pay reparations.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Thursday accused Kyiv of setting preconditions for talks, which he said proved Ukraine was not interested in negotiating.
But Ryabkov said Russia’s commitment to its unconditional territorial integrity was unshakable, including “within the constituent territories that were admitted to the Russian Federation recently.” This was not the same as setting preconditions for talks, he said.
Ukrainian officials said that Thursday’s continuing bombardment proved the hollowness of claims by Russia that it is willing to negotiate.
In one small sign of compromise, Russia on Thursday agreed to a Turkish-brokered 120-day extension of a grain-export deal, allowing Ukraine to ship grain from three ports, after Moscow previously threatened that it would not extend the deal.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said it was a “technical prolongation” of the deal, with no side objecting.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he had secured commitments to continue the agreement, which is regarded as crucial to preventing a global food crisis.
“It has been seen clearly how important and beneficial this agreement is for the food supply and security of the world, with the delivery of more than 11 million tons of grains and foodstuffs to those in need with nearly 500 ships in the last four months,” Erdogan said in a statement. He expressed gratitude to Putin and Zelensky as well as United Nations Secretary General António Guterres.
During a brutal fusillade Tuesday, Russia launched more than 90 missiles and 11 Iranian drones against Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials. One missile — now believed to have come from Ukrainian air defenses — landed in eastern Poland, killing two men in the village of Przewodow.
Overnight Wednesday, at least seven people were killed in a Russian strike on the town of Vilniansk, in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukrainian officials said.
Zelensky insisted Wednesday that the missile that struck Poland was not fired by his military, saying he had “no doubt” about this despite intelligence and initial investigative results announced by Polish President Andrzej Duda and NATO. On Thursday, Duda visited the scene of the incident but indicated that Ukraine was unlikely to be able to participate in the investigation anytime soon.
Zelensky’s position, however, was rebutted by President Biden in the early hours Thursday.
Asked about Zelensky’s claim after disembarking from Marine One shortly upon his return to the White House from the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Indonesia, Biden said, “That’s not the evidence.”
Barely a half-hour later, at 8 a.m. local time in Ukraine, air raid sirens blared across the country.
And about an hour after that, local authorities reported that Ukraine’s air defenses were shooting down Russian missiles and drones but that some energy and industrial infrastructure targets had been hit.
In Dnipro, a regional capital in central Ukraine, dashboard camera footage showed a giant explosion in the center of a city street as vehicles drove along a main thruway. Zelensky posted the video, which The Washington Post was not immediately able to independently verify.
“Morning. A peaceful city and the desire of people to live a normal life. Go to work, on business. Missile strike!” Zelensky wrote in a comment accompanying the video.
Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, posted on his Telegram channel that Russian missiles hit two districts of Dnipro, causing a “major fire” and damaging residential buildings. He said that 14 people were hospitalized with injuries, including a 15-year-old girl.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told an economic conference in Kyiv on Thursday that Russians were “bombing our enterprises in Dnipro,” including the aerospace manufacturer Pivdenmash.
Oleksiy Chernyshov, the head of Ukraine’s state energy company, Naftogaz, said in a statement Thursday that Russia had launched a “massive attack” on the company’s gas-production infrastructure. “Currently, several destroyed objects are known. Others have suffered damage of varying degrees,” Chernyshov said.
Other areas of the country also reported destruction and casualties. On the Black Sea coast, authorities reported that three people were injured during attacks in the Odessa region. Military officials said that Russians launched cruise missiles from the Black Sea and from two Su-30 bombers. Six missiles were shot down, they said.
Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said that four missiles hit critical infrastructure in the Izyum region in eastern Ukraine. Eight people were injured, the regional prosecutor‘s office said.
Kyiv’s military administration posted on Telegram that air defenses shot down four missiles and five self-detonating drones but said there had been no strikes on buildings or infrastructure.
However, the governor of the Kyiv region, Oleksiy Kuleba, said that the electricity situation was “difficult” and that scheduled power outages were planned.
But even with the missiles flying, Erdogan announced Thursday that he had secured commitments to continue the interim deal protecting Ukrainian grain exports from Black Sea ports — an agreement regarded as crucial to preventing a global food crisis.
“As a result of the four-way talks hosted by Turkey, the Black Sea Grain Corridor Agreement was extended for 120 days as of 19 November 2022, in line with the decision taken between Turkey, the United Nations, the Russian Federation and Ukraine,” Erdogan said in a statement.
Dixon reported from Riga, Latvia. Zeynep Karatas in Istanbul, and Loveday Morris in Przewodow, Poland, contributed to this report.