Key developments on Dec. 16:
- Military: 60 of 76 Russian missiles shot down during 7th mass strike on energy infrastructure
- Officials: At least 3 civilians killed, around 9 power generating facilities damaged
- EU condemns ‘Kremlin’s indiscriminate terror,” adopts 9th sanctions package against Russia
- Mass power outages reported in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipro, other cities
Russia fired 76 missiles at Ukraine from the Caspian and Black seas in the morning, killing at least three civilians and hitting scores of energy infrastructure sites in a coordinated attack, Ukrainian authorities said on Dec. 16.
Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi reported that 60 of the 76 Russian missiles were shot down by air defense, but some hit their target. About nine power generation facilities nationwide had suffered damages, Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said.
Emergency energy shutdowns were introduced across Ukraine, although no cities went into a long blackout.
The Dec. 16 missile strike is the seventh such attack within Russia’s now two-month-long campaign to take out Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Russia began the campaign to test Kyiv during the cold winter after Russian troops faced humiliating battlefield defeats, losing more than half of the territories it had occupied in Ukraine since the February invasion.
Speaking on national television several hours after the attack, Halushchenko said that up to half of the households across the country had no electricity, but the repairs were underway.
Russia’s seventh mass strike targeted critical infrastructure in Ukraine's central, southern, and northern regions.
One of the missiles hit an apartment building in the city of Kryvyi Rih in the central Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Three bodies had been recovered from the debris so far, according to Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Governor Valentyn Reznichenko: a 64-year-old woman and a young couple, whose little son remains under the rubble.
Reznichenko said that 13 people, including four children, were wounded.
Approximately 40 missiles – more than half of the day’s load – were spotted near Kyiv. Ukraine’s Air Force managed to shoot down 37 of them, according to the Kyiv City Military Administration. Explosions occurred in three Kyiv districts, damaging “several” critical infrastructure sites, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
At least one person was wounded in Kyiv and four in the city’s surrounding region, local authorities said.
Kyiv and other cities faced widespread power, water, and heating outages throughout the day. Ukraine’s state grid operator Ukrenergo reported that the already “substantial” energy deficit has “significantly” worsened. Cities such as Kharkiv and Poltava were cut off from electricity, local officials said.
The attack battering Ukraine’s energy grid again comes a week after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to launch new mass strikes against Ukraine.
Head of Ukraine's Intelligence Directorate Kyrylo Budanov said on Dec. 6 that while Russia’s high-precision weapon stock appears to be “critically low,” it still has enough reserves to launch “several more” mass strikes against Ukraine.
The previous mass strike occurred on Dec. 5, which killed four civilians and hit energy facilities in three regions.
Later on Dec. 14, Russia attacked Kyiv with 13 Iranian-made drones but they were all shot down by Ukraine’s air defense.
'Another attempt to commit genocide'
Kyiv officials plead for more advanced air defense systems and critically needed equipment to restore energy infrastructure amid intensifying attacks.
"We regard this terrorist activity of the Russian leadership as another attempt to commit genocide against the Ukrainian people," Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Telegram.
Echoing Shmyhal's statement, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Ukraine needs more advanced weapons to "effectively end Russian terror against Ukraine and restore peace and security in Europe and beyond."
In an article published by the Ukrinform news agency on Dec. 16, Lieutenant General Mykhailo Zabrodsky wrote that Ukraine should actively be striking Russian air bases and other launch sites to diminish Moscow's ability to launch airstrikes against Ukraine.
"This will enable Ukraine's Air Force and Armed Forces to move from repelling airstrikes to delivering retaliatory strikes, as well as preventive targeted strikes," Zabrodsky said.
Zabrodsky's assessment comes more than a week after blasts were reported at three Russian air bases deep in Russia due to what Moscow said were Kyiv's drone attacks. Russia used the air bases to launch attacks against Ukraine, and several aircraft were damaged.
Ukraine had not claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The EU condemned Russia's mass strike on Dec. 16, calling it "yet another example of the Kremlin's indiscriminate terror."
"These cruel, inhumane attacks aim to increase human suffering," European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement. Deliberately attacking civilian infrastructure "constitute war crimes and are barbaric," he added.
"All those responsible shall be held accountable," Borrell said.
Also, on Dec. 16, the EU adopted its ninth sanction package against Russia.
Under the ninth sanction package, the EU has imposed new export controls on equipment that can help enhance Russia's defense sector, including a ban on supplying drones or drone engines to Russia.
Other measures include the suspension of broadcasting licenses of four Kremlin-controlled media outlets – NTV/NTV Mir, Rossiya 1, REN TV, and Channel One (Perviy Kanal).
Meanwhile, Putin had a rare phone call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who called for dialogue and diplomacy again "as the only way forward," Modi's office said in a statement.
India is distancing itself from Russia amid Western pressure.
Modi canceled his annual in-person meeting with Putin due to the Russian leader's threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Bloomberg reported last week, citing sources familiar with the matter.