Russia’s “no risk” Ukraine strategy: plundering the power grid

Russia’s “no risk” Ukraine strategy: plundering the power grid


After a string of humiliating defeats on the battlefield in Ukraine, Moscow is trying a new tactic it hopes will turn the tide of the war: bombing power plants just as winter is setting in.

Since the beginning of this month, Russian forces have fired volleys from cruise missiles and fired hundreds of Iranian-made suicide drones at power plants, shutting down about 40 percent of Ukraine’s power grid, Kyiv says.

And after weeks of soul-searching in Moscow in the wake of severe military setbacks in eastern and southern Ukraine, the state-orchestrated media are once again smiling on the faces of Kremlin cheerleaders.

“It is impossible to survive if there is no heating, water, water treatment plants and light,” pro-Kremlin lawmaker Andrey Gurulev said this week after the recent barrage of power plants across Ukraine.

“We’re all sorry – we love everyone – but we’ve been pushed into it. We have no other choice,” said Kremlin propagandist and presenter Olga Skabeyeva.

Some observers go even further.

“This should have happened on day one, not eight months later,” Moscow-based military analyst Alexander Khramchikhin told AFP.

“The advantage of such an approach is that it cripples both the economy and, to a large extent, the armed forces,” Khramchikhin said.

There is “no risk” for Russia, he added.

– ‘Hate her more’ –

The impact of the Russian salvo on power plants was far-reaching.

Emergency services warned this week that more than 4,000 towns and villages were experiencing power outages.

The presidency has described the situation as “critical” and on Thursday officials introduced nationwide restrictions on electricity use.

“Even small savings … will help stabilize the operation of the national energy grid,” said Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, urging companies to limit consumption.

Regions like Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv and Chernivtsi in western Ukraine have implemented schedules to limit energy use.

For now, the Ukrainians seem ready to shoulder the burden.

In downtown Dnipro, a resident told AFP she was taking her toughest on Moscow after a Russian strike hit the thermal station on Tuesday.

“It won’t change our attitude. Maybe we’ll just hate them more,” Olga, who declined to give her last name, told AFP.

Russia’s shift to a systematic attack on Ukrainian power plants comes after a series of defeats in Ukraine.

In the early stages of the election campaign, she failed in her attempt to capture the capital, Kyiv. It was later pushed back from the besieged second city of Kharkiv, and now its forces are being defeated in the south and eastern Donbass region.

– “Breaking Ukrainian morale” –

Analysts say these setbacks are behind the change in tactics.

“The situation on the front lines is particularly unfavorable for the Russians, so they resort to an asymmetric approach” targeting energy infrastructure, Ukrainian expert Mykola Bielieskov told AFP.

The strikes also come after General Sergey Surovikin, a Moscow wars veteran with a reputation for ruthlessness, was taken on Oct. 8 with the task of turning the tide of the conflict.

“Surovikin is famous for this type of operation in Syria – destroying cities,” Mykhailo Samus, director of the New Geopolitics Research Network, told AFP.

“He’s trying to show Putin that he’s ready to do the same in Kyiv – he’s trying to break Ukrainian morale, exhaust Ukraine’s air defenses, destroy energy infrastructure before winter, and social problems for Ukrainians in cities of millions created by humans,” Samus said.

Whether the strategy would work out in the end is difficult to say, said Bielieskov. “That depends on the intensity of the strikes and on (Ukrainian) countermeasures.”

Kiev’s Western allies are responding to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s calls for more sophisticated air defense systems.

According to some analysts, Russian ammunition capable of accurately hitting power plants from afar is running out. This increases the possibility of less accurate, random shots.

Back in Dnipro, Olga insisted that no matter how brutal the Russian attacks became, her resolve would not be shaken.

“I would rather sit in the cold, without water and electricity, than be in Russia,” she said.

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