Russia hopes to collapse Ukraine's energy grid amid air defense shortage

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) outlined in its March 22 report that Russian forces are capitalizing on Ukraine's air defense vulnerabilities to execute a renewed assault aimed at crippling the country's energy grid. The ISW highlighted a substantial attack on over 130 energy infrastructure sites across Ukraine on the night of March 21-22, employing a combination of drones and missiles. This assault included targeting Ukraine's largest hydroelectric facility, the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant, along with numerous other vital installations.

According to the ISW, this attack marks the most extensive coordinated strike on Ukrainian energy infrastructure since the onset of Russia's full-scale invasion. Despite Ukraine's efforts to stabilize its energy sector, as indicated by Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal's reassurance in January 2024, the recent assault suggests that Russia remains committed to disrupting Ukraine's power grid.

The ISW report suggests that these strikes aim not only to disrupt Ukraine's energy supply but also to hinder the country's efforts to bolster its defense-industrial capabilities. Additionally, with critical shortages in Kyiv's air defense missile systems, Russian forces see an opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities and continue targeting energy infrastructure.

The ISW predicts that Russian forces will persist in intensified strikes on energy infrastructure, particularly capitalizing on delays in Western security assistance. The inability of Ukraine to replenish its missile stocks underscores the importance of consistent U.S. aid, which has faced obstacles due to congressional deadlock for the past six months.

Ukraine downs 31 Russian drones overnight

In its morning update on March 23, the Ukrainian Air Force reported that Ukraine successfully intercepted 31 out of 34 Shahed-type drones launched by Russia overnight. The drones were launched from the Kursk region and Cape Chauda in occupied Crimea. Anti-aircraft missile units and mobile fire units were instrumental in repelling the aerial assault, with the drones being shot down over various regions, including Poltava, Mykolaiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblasts.

Additionally, Russian forces targeted Donetsk Oblast with at least four S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles, although it remains uncertain whether these missiles were intercepted.

In Kharkiv, residents reported hearing explosions shortly after midnight on March 23, with a drone striking a three-story building and causing a fire covering an area of 150 square meters. The State Emergency Service of Ukraine reported injuries to one of its employees and a police officer who were dispatched to the site, with two emergency vehicles also sustaining damage in the attack.

This recent attack follows another large-scale assault by Russia on March 22, which targeted several Ukrainian cities, including Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Kryvyi Rih, primarily focusing on energy infrastructure. The attack left around 700,000 people in Kharkiv without power, marking one of the largest Russian attacks on Ukraine's critical infrastructure to date.

Moscow shooting a ‘deliberate provocation by Putin’s special services,’ says Ukraine’s military intelligence

Ukraine's military intelligence (HUR) has attributed the deadly shooting at a concert hall in Moscow on March 22 to a "deliberate provocation by Putin's special services."

The attack, which was ongoing at the time of reporting, involved several gunmen opening fire at the Crocus City Hall ahead of a concert. Social media images depicted the assailants moving through the venue unchallenged and firing indiscriminately at attendees.

According to statements from Russia's Investigative Committee and the Russian Health Ministry, the attack resulted in over 60 fatalities and more than 140 injuries.

Andrii Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine's military Intelligence, asserted to Ukrainska Pravda that the incident was a calculated maneuver orchestrated by Putin's special services, echoing previous warnings from the international community.

In a statement on its Telegram channel, HUR suggested that the shooting aimed to justify even more aggressive actions against Ukraine and trigger total mobilization in Russia.

HUR further interpreted the public nature of the attack as a threat from Putin, indicating a potential escalation and expansion of the conflict.

Subsequently, the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack in a Telegram post, a claim corroborated by U.S. intelligence officials.

Russian attack drones damage energy facilities in 2 of Ukraine's oblasts

A recent drone attack carried out by Russian forces in Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts has caused damage to energy facilities, thankfully resulting in no reported casualties.

According to the Defence Forces of Ukraine's South, Russian drones were observed maneuvering in multiple oblasts, attempting to evade air defense systems.

Air defense units engaged in combat operations for over seven hours, successfully downing 12 loitering munitions: four in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, four in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, three in Kherson Oblast, and one in Mykolaiv Oblast.

A statement from the Defence Forces of Ukraine's South indicated: "There is damage to energy facilities in Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. No information on casualties has been reported. The aftermath is being established. But it is clear that energy infrastructure remains among the enemy's priority targets."