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Zaporizhzhia's Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant hit amid Russian attack on energy infrastructure

by Olena Goncharova and Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk March 22, 2024 7:56 AM 5 min read
The aftermath of a Russian strike on the Dnipro Dam in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal/Telegram)
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Editor's note: This is a developing story and is being updated.

Russia launched another large-scale drone and missile attack against Ukrainian cities overnight on March 22, targeting Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Kryvyi Rih, primarily aiming at the energy infrastructure.

Attacks were also reported in Khmelnytskyi, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Vinnytsia, Kirovohrad, Lviv, Sumy, Poltava, and Ivano-Frankivsk oblasts.

Regional authorities said that there were at least five killed and 31 injured among the casualties reported so far.

"The enemy launched one of the largest attacks on the Ukrainian energy sector in recent weeks," Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko wrote on Facebook.

"The goal is not just to damage it, but, just like last year, to cause a large-scale disruption in the country's energy system." Russian forces launched a campaign of mass strikes against Ukraine's power grid in late 2022 and early 2023 but failed to put it out of action.

Zaporizhzhia's Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant, Ukraine's largest hydroelectric station, was hit during the attack, Ukrhydroenergo announced on March 22. The company reported fire at the station but said there is no threat of a dam breach, adding that the situation is under control.

Traffic across the Dnipro Dam was blocked following the Russian attack, the police in Zaporizhzhia Oblast said. A trolleybus was hit and caught on fire when a Russian projectile targeted the dam, and its 62-year-old driver was killed, Governor Ivan Fedorov said. No passengers were on board.

The head of Ukrainian state-owned energy company Ukrhydroenergo, Ihor Syrota, said that one of the stations of the Dnipro power plant, the Hydroelectric Power Station-2 (HPS-2), suffered critical damage. The Hydroelectric Power Station-1 was also not operating, he added.

Syrota announced at around 12 p.m. that the fire had been contained, but the engine room remained inaccessible for specialists due to heavy smoke.

Two other civilians have been killed in Zaporizhzhia proper: a 35-year-old man and his eight-year-old daughter, Fedorov said. At least 25 people have been reported as injured.

Fedorov also said earlier that Russian missiles destroyed four houses and damaged over 40 in Zaporizhzhia.

Situated on the Dnipro River just north of the Kakhovka Reservoir, the Dnipro Dam is 800 meters long and holds up a water reservoir of approximately 3.3 cubic kilometers. Last year, Russian forces destroyed the Kahkovka Dam and the adjacent hydroelectric station located downstream of the Dnipro Dam, causing a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe across southern Ukraine.

Overnight on March 22, Russian forces also struck the energy infrastructure in the city of Kharkiv, leading to a near-complete loss of power in the city. At least 15 explosions were reported.

The State Emergency Service said at 10:23 local time that about 700,000 Kharkiv residents were left without power. One employee of a targeted energy infrastructure facility in the city was reportedly injured.

Regional authorities also said that critical infrastructure was hit in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, namely in Kryvyi Rih, as well as in the Pavlohrad, Kamianske, and Dnipro districts. No casualties were reported.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe's largest nuclear power station currently occupied by Russia, was in an "extremely dangerous" situation following the attack, Energoatom announced early on March 22.

An external power line that links the station to Ukraine's energy system was disconnected following the strikes, the Ukrainian state-owned company said.

"The situation is extremely dangerous and threatens to cause an emergency. If the last communication with the domestic power grid is severed, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant will suffer another blackout," Energoatom head Petro Kotin said.

At 10:53 local time, Energoatom reported that the power line had been repaired.

‘Lives are falling apart:’ Kyiv residents shook by another mass missile attack
Viktor Syrotyn was sleeping in his apartment near central Kyiv when the first powerful explosion rang out. He immediately woke up, ran into his children’s room, and covered his daughter with his body. The next moment, he heard another explosion, even more powerful, with windows getting blown…

In Lviv Oblast, a Russian drone hit an energy infrastructure facility in the Stryi district, Governor Maksym Kozytskyi reported.

"A fire broke, but it has been extinguished by firefighters. As of now, there is no information about casualties," Kozytskyi wrote on Telegram.

The attacks injured at least two people and damaged a critical infrastructure facility in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, Governor Svitlana Onyshchuk and the State Emergency Service said. No power outages were reported in the region.

Two people were killed in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, and at least eight were wounded, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said. Rescue workers are continuing to search for other possible casualties amid the rubble.

Russia launched 60 Shahed-type drones and almost 90 missiles of various types against Ukraine in the overnight strike, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

"There are no delays in Russian missiles like there are in assistance to our country," Zelensky wrote on Telegram.

"Shaheds are not undecisive, like some politicians. It is important to understand the cost of delays. Patriot systems must protect Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia."

Polish and other allied jets were scrambled in response to the attacks, the Operational Command of Poland's Armed Forces said.

Ukraine's air defense is in an increasingly difficult situation as ammunition supplies from the U.S., a key military donor, remain blocked due to political disputes in Congress.

With arrival of spring, a look at Russia’s winter strikes on Kyiv
In total, at least 45 people were killed in the capital, and more than 130 were wounded by Russian attacks over the winter of 2023-2024.
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