President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday Ukraine will strike back against Russia this winter and not only be on the defensive if Moscow conducts an air campaign aimed at crippling the national power grid.
Ukraine fears Russia plans to bomb key energy infrastructure to demoralise the population. Millions of Ukrainians faced sweeping power cuts and other outages last winter as Russia attacked power facilities with missiles and drones.
“We’re preparing for the terrorists to strike energy infrastructure. This year we will not only defend ourselves, but we will also respond,” Zelensky wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Russia, which has called energy infrastructure a legitimate target, conducted regular long-range strikes using strategic bombers and warships last winter to fire cruise missiles from hundreds of kilometres away with Ukraine largely unable to respond.
Though it still does not have such long-range armaments at its disposal, Ukraine has since increased its strike capabilities, producing drones and obtaining Western weapons like Storm Shadow cruise missiles and long-range ballistic missiles known as ATACMS.
Ukraine has conducted strikes in recent months on the peninsula of Crimea, which Russia seized and annexed from Ukraine in 2014. It has also used seaborne drones packed with explosives to attack Russian naval vessels.
Russian officials have also accused Ukraine over the past month of attacking an electricity substation and other energy infrastructure, causing power cuts in western Russian regions that border Ukraine.
Last week, Ukraine said it had used US-supplied ATACMS missiles for the first time, inflicting heavy damage on two airfields in Russian-occupied areas.
In his statement, Zelensky said Russia’s actions show it understands that Ukraine is better equipped to respond to Russian strikes now.
“The enemy understands this well. To start with they removed their fleet from Crimea, now they are relocating their aviation further from our borders.”
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