At least two people killed in Russian strikes on Ukrainian energy network | Ukraine

Russia has carried out another round of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine’s much-depleted energy network, killing at least two people.

One man died in a cruise-missile attack on infrastructure in the western Lviv region, while another was killed after a projectile hit a petrol station in the north-eastern Kharkiv region, officials said on Sunday.

Lviv’s governor, Maksym Kozytsky, said there “may still be people under the rubble”, adding that firefighters had extinguished a blaze that broke out at an administrative building damaged in the strikes.

Russia has escalated its attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure in recent days, causing significant damage in several regions.

On Saturday, the Ukrainian energy company Centrenergo said the Zmiiv thermal power plant, one of the largest in the Kharkiv region, had been completely destroyed as a result of Russian shelling last week. Power-outage schedules were still in place for about 120,000 people in the region, where 700,000 had lost electricity after the plant was hit on 22 March.

The national energy operator, Ukrenergo, said Russia had also targeted high-voltage facilities in the south on Sunday, forcing emergency shutdowns in the Black Sea city of Odesa and nearby areas that left hundreds of thousands of people without power.

In an Easter Sunday message to Ukrainians on social media, the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said: “There is no night or day when Russian terror does not try to break our lives … But we defend ourselves, we endure, our spirit does not give up and knows that it is possible to avert death. Life can prevail.”

The Ukrainian air force said it shot down nine of the 11 Shahed-type drones launched by Russia overnight, as well as nine out of 14 cruise missiles.

Russia’s defence ministry said the air force had used “high-precision long-range air-based weapons” to conduct a large strike against Ukraine’s gas and energy infrastructure.

“As a result of this strike, the operation of defence industry enterprises involved in the manufacture and repair of weapons, equipment and ammunition has been disrupted,” it said in a statement. “All the goals of the strike have been achieved. The assigned objects were hit.”

One woman in the Russian border region of Belgorod was injured on Sunday when a fire broke out after 10 Czech-made Vampire rockets landed in the area.

The latest wave of strikes came as the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, signed orders heralding the start of the country’s annual spring recruitment season, officially drafting 150,000 conscripts.

Russia’s parliament raised the upper age limit for conscripts from 27 to 30 in July 2023 in a move that appeared to be part of efforts to expand the country’s military during the fighting in Ukraine. In September, Putin signed an order calling up 130,000 people for the autumn campaign, and last spring Russia planned to conscript 147,000.

On Sunday, France’s defence minister, Sébastien Lecornu, said his country would send Ukraine a fresh military aid package including new surface-to-air missiles and hundreds of old armoured vehicles.

“The Ukrainian army needs to defend a very long frontline, which requires armoured vehicles; this is absolutely crucial for troop mobility and is part of the Ukrainian requests,” Lecornu told La Tribune Dimanche.

He said France was looking at providing hundreds of VAB (Véhicule de l’Avant Blindé) frontline troop carriers in 2024 and early 2025.

France’s army is gradually replacing its thousands of VABs, which first went into operation in the late 1970s, with new multi-role troop carriers.

Lecornu added that France was also preparing to release a new batch of Aster 30 surface-to-air missiles for the Samp/T system provided to Kyiv. The Aster 30 can intercept warplanes, drones and cruise missiles within a range of 75 miles (120km).

France is also speeding up the development of remotely operated ammunition for delivery to Ukraine as early as this summer, Lecornu said.

Last month the French president, Emmanuel Macron, refused to rule out sending ground troops to Ukraine, although he cautioned that there was no consensus as allies agreed to ramp up efforts to deliver more munitions to Kyiv.

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