Russia has launched a new wave of airstrikes against Ukraine.
Explosions have been reported in at least six cities, from the capital Kyiv, where dozens of missiles fell on Friday morning, to Kharkiv in the northeast and Poltava in the center of the country.
At least two people have been killed so far as Russia continues to attack water pipelines and the power grid as temperatures plummet in the winter.
“It is one of the biggest Russian bombardments since the beginning of the war,” said the military spokesman in Kyiv, Mykhalilo Shamanov.
The Kyiv correspondent of the Ukrainian Service, Zhanna Bezpiatchuk, reports that on Friday three large missiles hit power plants causing large-scale damage.
“On the eastern bank of the Dnipro river, which is where the residential area of Kyiv is, there are power and water cuts. For the first time the metro lost power and all trains stopped.”
Ukraine’s energy company says that more than half of electricity consumers in the country have been affected.
Kharkiv, the second largest city in the country, has run out of electricity. Its mayor said that the damage caused is “colossal.”
For now there is no panic or intentions for a mass evacuation, says Zhanna Bezpiatchuk.
“Ukrainians have gotten used to blackouts, it’s part of their resistance and a demonstration of their lively spirit against the invasion,” he says. “The fighting is not only taking place on the front lines, but here as well.”
Half of the users of electricity services have been left in the dark.
For now, people are adjusting to living in total darkness, in very cold residences, with no signal to communicate. But the danger, points out the correspondent, is that this situation lasts for more than four or five days.
“Authorities have had to balance electricity supplies by temporarily cutting power in various areas of the country. But a long blackout could permanently damage batteries that produce heat or pump water from buildings,” he said.
That would be a catastrophe in the winter months.
The recent wave of missiles is part of a relentless two-month attack that has decimated Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, making it more costly for economic support from the West and its allies to resist the invasion.
The residential area of Kyiv has been particularly affected by the recent shelling.
Is Russia preparing a new ground offensive?
Ukraine is accusing Moscow of preparing the ground for a broad ground offensive early next year, despite recent setbacks to Russian troops in recent months.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his top commanders warned that the offensive could start in the eastern Donbas region as well as in the south or even in Kyiv.
In a series of press conferences, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov speculated that the offensive would start in February, when half of Russia’s 300,000 new recruits would have completed their training.
“The Kremlin is trying to find new solutions to achieve victory,” Reznikov said, adding that he hoped Moscow would mobilize more of its citizens.
On Thursday, more than 40 missiles rained down on Kherson and the surrounding area in a span of 24 hours.
Separately, the commander of the Ukrainian armed forces, General Valery Zaluzhny, said: “I have no doubt that they will make another attempt in Kyiv.”
Therefore, for Ukraine it is “a very important strategic task to create reserves and prepare for war.”
The Belarus factor
Allies. Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet this Monday with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit Minsk on Monday to meet his counterpart and ally Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus.
The defense ministers of both countries will be participating in negotiations, according to the Russian agency Tass.
The visit comes amid warnings from Ukraine about a possible new Russian offensive that could be launched from Belarus.
“That’s the big fear,” says the correspondent for the Ukrainian Service.
“Until now, Russia has only used Belarusian territory to launch its missiles or for the transit of its combat planes, but there has been talk that the possible Russian offensive could start there.”
Another possibility is that the Belarusian army is directly involved in the invasion.
Although not considered to be a large-capacity army, the Ukraine-Belarus border is very long and the Ukrainian defense would have to spread its resources to protect its borders, correspondent Bezpiatchuk explains.
A harsh winter
Both Russia and Ukraine have ruled out a Christmas truce and there are currently no talks with goals of ending the conflict.
Military analysts believe that despite heavy fighting, a winter stalemate could be reached, particularly in the Donetsk region, where Russian forces are holding an offensive to take the town of Bakhmut.
On the battlefronts, Russia appears to be following “a military entrenchment plan”, according to the UK Ministry of Defense.
It is a war tactic that has changed little since World War II, he added.
The entrenchment tactic is also being applied on the Ukrainian defense fronts.
Ukraine is also digging trenches as a defense measure at the front, but it is a cold and uncomfortable time for soldiers to be surrounded by mud in the winter.
Additionally, trenches are vulnerable to precision weapon attacks.
Ukraine has, however, significantly upgraded its air defenses with Western support, but is calling for more sophisticated weapons.
European Union leaders have agreed to provide nearly $18 billion in financing to Ukraine next year.
The United States, for its part, announced that it will expand the training of Ukrainian military personnel in Germany and also has plans to send the advanced Patriot anti-aircraft missiles, although the number of this expensive system will be limited.