Drone attacks strike southern Ukraine as western allies step up arms supplies

More than a million people left without power in Odesa region after Moscow uses Iranian Shahed-136 weapon

A vendor waits for customers in a small store that is lit with candles during a power outage after critical civil infrastructure was hit by Russian missile attacks, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues. Reuters.
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A fresh wave of drone attacks struck Ukraine overnight on Saturday, leaving 1.5 million people without power in the city of Odesa.

The attacks are part of a Russian strategy to break Ukrainian morale as winter temperatures plummet, destroying critical infrastructure in major cities across the country.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said more than 1.5 million people in the southern port city and surrounding region had no electricity. He described the situation as very difficult.

The regional administration said people who relied solely on electricity to power their homes should consider leaving. Officials said Russian strikes hit key transmission lines and equipment in the early hours of Saturday.

Iranian Shahed-136 drones were once again being used in large numbers, Ukraine’s military said, after the UK’s Ministry of Defence said initial supplies of the weapon has been exhausted.

Western powers have scrambled to send Ukraine missiles and anti-aircraft guns optimised for shooting down drones. On Saturday, the US and Germany announced new arms deliveries to Kyiv.

The US said it would send 80,000 artillery rounds, which experts say would last less than 20 days during a major offensive. Both Russia and Ukraine are using ammunition stocks faster than they can be replenished.

Russia's ex-president Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday the country was ramping up production of new-generation weapons to protect itself from western allies.

“We are increasing production of the most powerful means of destruction. Including those based on new principles,” Mr Medvedev said on messaging app Telegram.

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“Our enemy dug in not only in the Kyiv province of our native Malorossiya,” Mr Medvedev said, using the term to describe territories of modern-day Ukraine that were part of the Russian Empire under the tsars.

“It is in Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and a whole number of other places that pledged allegiance to the Nazi.”

Mr Medvedev, who serves as deputy head of Russia's Security Council, did not provide details of the weapons.

President Vladimir Putin repeatedly said that Russia has been developing new types of hardware, including hypersonic weapons that he boasts can circumvent all existing missile defence systems.

Any peace talks in Ukraine cannot be used to hide Russian rearmament, British Foreign Minister James Cleverly said on Sunday. He had not seen any signs that Moscow would enter into negotiations in good faith, he added.

Mr Cleverly said that, while Britain wanted to see peace talks “sooner rather than later”, he reiterated that Ukraine should set the parameters for any negotiations that were held.

“Any negotiations need to be real, they need to be meaningful, they can't just be a fig leaf for Russian rearmament and further recruitment of soldiers,” Mr Cleverly told Sky News.

Earlier on Saturday, Ukraine attacked occupied Melitopol in the country's south-east, the Russian-installed and exiled Ukrainian authorities of the strategically located city said.

The pro-Moscow authorities said a missile attack killed two people and injured 10, while the exiled mayor said scores of “invaders” were killed.

“Air defence systems destroyed two missiles, four reached their targets,” Yevgeny Balitsky, the Moscow-appointed governor of the occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia region, said on the Telegram messaging app.

He said a “recreation centre” where people were dining was destroyed in the Ukrainian attack with Himars missiles.

The exiled mayor, Ivan Fedorov, said on his Telegram channel that the attack hit a church that Russians had turned into a gathering place.

Vladimir Rogov, another Moscow-installed official in the Russian-controlled part of Zaporizhzhia, said a big fire caused by the strike engulfed the recreation centre. He posted a video of a structure in flames.

Himars multiple rocket launchers have been among Ukraine's most effective weapons in the war, delivering precision fire on hundreds of targets, including Russian command posts. On Friday, the US said it was sending more aid to Kyiv to strengthen its air defences and defeat drones.

An adviser to Mr Zelenskyy, Oleksiy Arestovych, said Melitopol, a major industrial and transport centre occupied by Russia since March, is key to the defence of the south.

“All logistics linking the Russian forces on the eastern part of the Kherson region and all the way to the Russian border near Mariupol is carried out through it,” Mr Arestovych said in a video interview on social media.

“If Melitopol falls, the entire defence line all the way to Kherson collapses. Ukrainian forces gain a direct route to Crimea.”

There was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian army about the attacks. Earlier in the day, the central command of Ukraine's armed forces said it had been conducting strikes on Melitopol.

Updated: December 11, 2022, 11:33 AM