Russia launched massive attack across Ukraine targeting critical infrastructure

Russia unleashed a significant barrage of missiles and drones across Ukraine in the early hours of March 24, aiming at vital infrastructure and leaving thousands without heat, according to local officials.

The assault involved 29 cruise missiles and 28 Shahed drones, targeting eight regions across Ukraine's western, central, northern, and southern areas, as confirmed by the Air Force. While Ukrainian air defenses managed to intercept 18 cruise missiles and 25 drones, no casualties were reported as of 10 a.m. local time.

This latest escalation follows Russia's intensified attacks on Ukraine's critical infrastructure, notably damaging the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant on March 22, the nation's largest hydroelectric facility.

Kyiv was among the targeted cities, with approximately 10 missiles intercepted by the Kyiv City Military Administration. Debris from downed missiles fell in two districts of the capital without causing major damage to residential areas.

Western Lviv Oblast also experienced the impact, as Russia struck an unidentified critical infrastructure site, sparking a fire. Firefighters quickly responded to the scene, and as of early morning, there were no reports of casualties.

During a subsequent air raid alert around 9:30 a.m., Russia launched Kinzhal air-launched missiles at Lviv Oblast, resulting in two hits at the critical infrastructure site. Fortunately, firefighters were safely evacuated in time.

Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in central-eastern Ukraine was also targeted, with Russian drones damaging heating networks and power lines in the city of Kryvyi Rih and the Nikopol district. The attack left six hospitals, over 150 educational institutions, and 3,000 residential buildings without heating, affecting 76,000 people.

In southern Odesa Oblast, port infrastructure suffered damage from the strike, according to the Southern Defense Forces. The extent of the destruction is yet to be fully assessed.

Additional regions, including Kherson, Mykolaiv, Sumy, and Volyn oblasts, witnessed Ukrainian air defenses successfully intercepting airborne threats, according to the Air Force.

The mass strike was launched from occupied Crimea and Russia, with cruise missiles fired from 14 Tu-95 strategic bombers stationed near Engels in Russia's Saratov Oblast. Despite Russia's aggressive tactics, neighboring NATO member Poland reported that one missile briefly entered its airspace but was swiftly addressed by Polish Air Force authorities.

Russia's relentless attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure have triggered memories of previous winters, where mass missile and drone strikes caused widespread devastation and energy shortages. While this year's assaults have yet to reach the severity of past attacks, the threat to Ukraine's stability and security remains grave.

Russian attacks on Ukraine's energy grid have led to $11.5 billion in losses

Since the onset of Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022, the relentless attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure have inflicted staggering losses, reaching a staggering $11.5 billion, according to Deputy Minister of Energy Svitlana Hrynchuk's statement on March 23.

Hrynchuk emphasized that these losses do not even include the recent devastating assault on the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant, Ukraine's largest facility of its kind, which occurred on March 22. She warned that the latest attack's financial toll could be substantial, possibly reaching into the billions of dollars.

The aftermath of the attack revealed critical damage to the Hydroelectric Power Station-2 (HPS-2) within Zaporizhzhia's Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant, marking one of the most severe blows to Ukraine's energy sector in recent memory. Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko underscored the strategic intent behind the attack, likening it to previous efforts aimed at causing widespread disruption to the country's energy infrastructure.

Ukrhydroenerho CEO Ihor Sirota highlighted the immediate consequences, noting that Ukraine suffered a significant setback, losing approximately 20% of its power grid's regulation capability. This resulted in a temporary blackout affecting 1.5 million Ukrainians.

The relentless onslaught on Ukraine's critical infrastructure, characterized by mass missile and drone strikes, has been a recurring nightmare since the winter of 2022-2023. During that period, Russia's assaults caused extensive damage and widespread blackouts, severely impacting the nation's energy system.

Despite the ongoing onslaught, Ukraine achieved a significant milestone in its energy independence journey, relying solely on domestic gas production to navigate through the winter for the first time in history. Naftogaz's CEO Oleksiy Chernyshov hailed this achievement as a testament to Ukraine's resilience and determination.

Looking ahead, Ukraine's Energy Ministry, in collaboration with the World Bank, continues to assess the damage inflicted by Russia's relentless attacks, underscoring the nation's unwavering commitment to safeguarding its energy independence and security.

Situation at Zaporizhzhia's Dnipro Dam under control, no danger of breach

The Environment Ministry provided reassuring updates on March 23 regarding the situation at Zaporizhzhia's Dnipro Dam, emphasizing that there is no imminent risk of a breach despite the Russian missile attack. The attack, which targeted Ukraine's largest hydroelectric station, the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant, inflicted significant damage with eight missiles.

Following the assault, concerns arose regarding the integrity of the Hydroelectric Power Station-2 (HPS-2), a critical component of the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant. While the station is in a precarious state, officials have affirmed that the dam itself remains stable and secure, allaying fears of a potential breach.

In response to the attack's environmental implications, state and regional authorities convened a coordination meeting to assess the situation. The State Environmental Inspectorate's findings indicate a decrease in petroleum product concentrations in the water, offering some relief. However, water intake has been temporarily halted in the Bilenke community, the sole area relying on the lower reaches of the Dnipro River for water supply.

Preliminary assessments by the Inspectorate have estimated damages to water resources at Hr 159,305 ($4,100), with ongoing evaluations to quantify the extent of soil and air pollution-related losses. Efforts are underway to comprehensively address and mitigate the environmental impacts of the attack.

Poland to demand explanation from Russia over missile violating Polish airspace

Poland will demand explanations from Russia following yet another alarming incident of a Russian missile breaching NATO airspace overnight on March 23-24.

According to Paweł Wroński, spokesperson for Poland's Foreign Ministry, the violation occurred when a Russian cruise missile entered Polish airspace near the village of Osierdów in the Lublin Voivodeship at 04:23 on March 24. The missile remained in Polish airspace for 39 seconds before veering away.

Expressing firm condemnation, Wroński emphasized Poland's stance against terrorism and any attempts to forcibly redraw borders. He extended heartfelt condolences to those affected by the recent Russian attack and their families.

This incident marks a concerning pattern, with a similar violation occurring on December 29, 2023, also in the Lublin Voivodeship. On both occasions, Polish authorities promptly notified NATO allies and took appropriate measures, including scrambling aircraft, to address the breach.

Poland's Foreign Ministry underscored the urgency for Russia to cease its aggressive actions, particularly its ongoing terrorist airstrikes against Ukraine. The international community continues to monitor developments closely as tensions persist in the region.