More than military bases or transport hubs in recent weeks, Russia has bombarded Ukraine’s electricity distribution and heating networks.
With winter weeks away, Russian missile and drone strikes are hitting thermal power stations, electricity substations, transformers and pipelines. The result: rolling power cuts, disabled water pumping stations and widespread internet outages.
“This is a terrorist act planned with the help of competent Russian energy experts, which aims to shut down the energy system of Ukraine. That is, to achieve a complete blackout in the country,” Oleksandr Kharchenko, CEO of the Energy Research Center in Kyiv, said Friday.
A strategy emerges: As Russian forces endured losses in September and into this month, pundits appeared on state media urging that Ukraine be plunged into a dark, freezing winter in revenge. That now appears to be the goal.
The casualties are relatively few but the damage inordinate. Power infrastructure is an obvious, static target that is hard to defend without an extraordinary array of area defenses, which Ukraine has been begging for from its Western allies.
Maksym Timchenko, the CEO of energy company DTEK, noted in a recent interview that Russia has been very selective in their targeting. He told Ekonomichna Pravda that the strikes were aimed not at generating capacities but the cogs of distribution: switchgears and transformers, or output equipment at thermal power plants.
Ukrainian authorities are clearly struggling to keep up with an ever-longer list of needed repairs this month, and some infrastructure is beyond repair.