Fresh wave of strikes shatters power infrastructure; Iran deepens support for Russia; how Kyiv’s statues are kept safe
Daniel Boffey reported from Zaporizhzha, where the Russians generally strike at 2am, 4am and 6am, or when “people’s dreams are at their deepest”, according to Oleksandr Starukh, the governor of the south-eastern region of Ukraine where, at the time of writing, 70 people had been killed in two weeks.
Among the dead was Serhiy Govelov, 56. His son and wife, Bogdan and Olga, had run down and out of their apartment after a missile hit their building at 2.30am. Serhiy was lying at the bottom in a huge crater.
“They tried to pull him out but instead watched as his internal organs spilled out into the dirt. ‘He was still alive, he was still alive,’ says Olga. The grief has put them in an almost trance-like state.
“The trees outside the apartments have a peculiar foliage today: ripped blouses, trousers, skirts and T-shirts catapulted 20 metres on to their branches from washing lines on the balconies of shattered homes. A total of 15 people died in this strike.
“The region of Zaporizhzhia, and its capital, is one of the four provinces, along with Donetsk and Luhansk to the east and Kherson to its south-west, that were said by Putin to have been annexed into the Russian Federation on 1 October.”
Russia attacked Kyiv with nearly 30 “kamikaze” drones on Monday morning, killing four, including a pregnant woman and her partner, days after Vladimir Putin said there would be no more “massive strikes” on the country.
Also on Monday, a Russian military jet crashed into a residential building shortly after taking off near the border with Ukraine, sparking a major fire that has reportedly left at least 13 people dead, according to Russian news agency Interfax, citing a senior official.
Daniel Boffey was in Kyiv when Monday’s strikes started, and wrote about the experience, which started with hearing a sound “similar to a moped at first but ever more like the full-throated roar of a motorbike”. He sheltered in a station underpass, where “parents tried to distract toddlers with anything they had to hand: a toy car, a pebble.”
Dan Sabbagh looked into what kamikaze drones are, writing that Russia’s increasing use of the weapons reflects “both a strength and a weakness”. While their use appears to demonstrate that Russia is running short of guided missiles, he wrote, “Monday morning’s drone bombings in the centre of Kyiv, in two clusters at the time of the morning rush hour, show how the weapons can cause destruction and fear in a capital that until a week ago had not been attacked for months.”
Meanwhile, Britain joined France in viewing the Iranian supply of armed drones to Russia as a breach of Iran’s obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal. The Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson, Naser Kanani, in his weekly press conference again denied Iran was supplying drones to Russia, challenging claims by the US, Ukraine and many arms specialists that Iranian-manufactured Shahed-136 drones were in clear use.
Ukraine introduced an emergency schedule of power cuts to help stabilise the country’s energy supply, which has been badly damaged by more than 300 Russian drone and missile attacks over the past 10 days – and as the weather turns cooler.
The bombing is often inaccurate and civilians have been killed in residential buildings in Kyiv and other big cities, Dan Sabbagh and Patrick Wintour reported. But enough have got through to cause problems for a power grid already short of generation capacity after the Zaprorizhzhia nuclear power plant was shut down.
Kyiv’s mayor appealed to residents to conserve electricity by turning off air conditioners, electric kettles and microwaves, and said houses experiencing reduced water pressure should use water as “economically as possible”.
Dan Sabbagh looked into what winter is likely to bring for Ukrainians.
“It is a grim warning. While attention has been focused on the civilian casualties and chaos caused by Russia’s renewed bombing of Kyiv and other major cities, its impact on the country’s energy supply has not been quantified until today,” he wrote. “President Zelenskiy announced that 30% of the country’s power stations had been knocked out in just eight days, an astonishing proportion in a short amount of time with blackouts occurring in the east of the capital.”
Iran significantly deepened its involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by providing technical support for Russian pilots flying Iranian-made drones to bomb civilian targets, the White House confirmed.
The national security council lead spokesperson, John Kirby, said on Thursday that it was the US’s understanding that Iranian advisers were in Crimea to provide training and maintenance – but not to actually pilot the drones – after Russian forces experienced difficulties in operating the unmanned flying bombs.
“The information we have is that the Iranians have put trainers and tech support in Crimea, but it’s the Russians who are doing the piloting,” Kirby said. “Tehran is now directly engaged on the ground and through the provision of weapons … that are killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure. These are systems that the Russian armed forces are not familiar [with] using and these are organically manufactured Iranian UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles]. The Russians just don’t have anything in their inventory.”
Iran has also agreed to provide a batch of medium-range missiles to Russia, designed to supplement the severely run-down stock of Russian missiles as part of a bid to systematically destroy Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure ahead of a brutal winter, Patrick Wintour reported.
While repeated its denial of selling drones to Russia on Tuesday, Tehran at the same time asserts it is fully entitled to sell arms abroad, as the restrictions on arms sales contained in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal expired in 2020. The US, France and the UK say missile sales would be in breach of the nuclear deal.
The White House has straightforwardly accused Iran of lying about the drone sales, but has been more circumspect about the missile sales.
The cost to Ukraine of downing the “kamikaze” drones being fired at its cities vastly exceeds the sums paid by Russia in sourcing and launching the weapons, analysis suggests. Daniel Boffey crunched the numbers.
The new commander of Moscow’s army in Ukraine announced on Tuesday that civilians were being “resettled” from the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson, describing the military situation as “tense”.
Pjotr Sauer, Dan Sabbagh and Julian Borger reported on his statement from Kyiv and Washington.
“The enemy continually attempts to attack the positions of Russian troops,” Sergei Surovikin said in his first televised interview since being appointed earlier this month, adding that the situation was particularly difficult around the occupied southern city of Kherson.
Surovikin’s statements on Tuesday came amid repeated military setbacks for Russian forces. Surovikin admitted that the situation in Kherson was “not easy”.
“Further actions and plans regarding the city of Kherson will depend on the developing military-tactical situation, which is not easy. We will act consciously, in a timely manner, without ruling out difficult decisions,” he added.
The comments appeared to mark a rare acknowledgment of the difficulties facing Russian forces. But it was not immediately clear whether Surovikin, the ruthless general now in charge of the war, was hinting at a looming Russian withdrawal from Kherson or a fresh round of airstrikes.
Charlotte Higgins wrote about how Kyiv is protecting its statues from Russian strikes.
Kyiv’s statues – sandbagged by the city authorities for protection – are one of only a few reminders, along with an 11pm curfew and the regular wailing of air raid sirens, that this bustling city is at war. Boxed up, muffled, veiled and hidden, they also give Kyiv a strange new look – as if the sculptures have been replaced by contemporary artworks.
In Volodymyrska Hirka Park, where paths wind through trees above the Dnieper River, a sculpture dedicated to Dante Alighieri was inaugurated in 2021 – a gesture towards western European, rather than Russian, culture. His gaunt, rather mournful carrara marble head pokes up comically from above the sandbags.
Jennifer Rankin looked at the growing rift between Hungary and Poland.
“While Warsaw has been one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters, urging tougher sanctions, Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orbán, has described Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as his ‘opponent’ and blamed the EU’s Russia policy for inflation and soaring energy prices,” she wrote. “Despite a few tentative olive branches, Polish-Hungarian relations remain tense.”
She reports that a recent YouGov poll exposed the gulf in public perceptions of the war between the two neighbours. While 65% of Poles support maintaining sanctions against Russia, only 32% of Hungarians back this EU policy. Similarly, three-quarters of Polish citizens blame Russia for the war, compared with only 35% of Hungarians.