KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's state electricity operator on Saturday announced blackouts in Kyiv and seven other regions of the country in the aftermath of Russia's devastating strikes on energy infrastructure.
The move comes as Russian forces continue to pound Ukrainian cities and villages with missiles and drones, inflicting damage on power plants, water supplies and other civilian targets, in a grinding war that is nearing its nine-month mark.
Russia has denied that the drones it has used in Ukraine came from Iran, but the Islamic Republic's foreign minister on Saturday for the first time acknowledged supplying Moscow with “a limited number” of drones before the invasion. Hossein Amirabdollahian claimed, however, that Tehran didn't know if its drones were used against Ukraine and stated Iran's commitment to stopping the conflict.
Ukrenergo, the sole operator of Ukraine’s high-voltage transmission lines, initially said in a an online statement Saturday that scheduled blackouts will take place in the capital and the greater Kyiv region, as well as several regions around it — Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Poltava and Kharkiv.
Later in the day, however, the company released an update saying that scheduled outages for a specific number of hours aren't enough and instead there will be emergency outages, which could last an indefinite amount of time.
Ukraine has been grappling with power outages and the disruption of water supplies since Russia started unleashing massive barrages of missile and drone strikes on the country's energy infrastructure last month.
Moscow has said those came in response to what it alleged were Ukrainian attacks on Crimea, the region that Russia illegally annexed in 2014. Ukraine has denied those allegations.
According to Ukraine’s presidential office, at least three civilians were killed and eight others were wounded over the past 24 hours by Russian shelling of nine Ukrainian regions, where drones, missiles and heavy artillery were used.
In the Russian-occupied Kherson region, where a Ukrainian counteroffensive is underway, the Russian military continue to abduct local residents, the presidential office said.
About 40 shells were fired overnight at the city of Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said on Telegram. The Russian forces targeted the city and the areas around it with heavy artillery, as they have done repeatedly since July. Two fires broke out, and more than a dozen residential and utility buildings, as well as a gas pipeline, were damaged, he said.
Elsewhere in the region, Ukrainian forces shot down a drone and another projectile, according to Reznichenko.
In the southern Mykolaiv region, the overnight shelling of rural areas damaged several houses but didn't cause any casualties, Mykolaiv Gov. Vitali Kim said on Telegram.
Russian forces also fired missiles at the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, which has been illegally annexed by Moscow and large parts of it remain occupied. According to regional Gov. Oleksandr Starukh, the attack took place shortly after midnight and damaged three businesses, as well as a number of cars.
In the eastern Donetsk region, also annexed and partially occupied by Russia, eight Ukrainian cities and villages were shelled, including Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Porkovsk.
Russian-installed authorities in Donetsk reported an attempt on the life of a Moscow-appointed judge of the region's Supreme Court. Alexander Nikulin, who was on a judicial panel that in June sentenced to death two Britons and a Moroccan fighting for Ukraine, has been hospitalized with gunshot wounds and is in grave condition, Kremlin-backed officials said.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Andrew Meldrum, The Associated Press