Russian drones crash the power grid in Odessa

KIEV (Reuters) – All non-vital infrastructure in Ukraine’s port of Odessa was without power after Russia used Iranian-made drones to strike two power plants, cutting power to 1.5 million people, officials said on Saturday.

“The situation in the Odessa region is very difficult,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

“Unfortunately, the strikes were critical, so it takes more than just time to bring the electricity back… It doesn’t take hours, but a few days, unfortunately.”

Since October, Moscow has been targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with waves of missile and drone strikes.

Zelensky said Norway is sending $100 million to help restore Ukraine’s energy system.

Serhiy Prachuk, a spokesman for the regional administration of Odessa, said that electricity for the city’s residents would return “in the coming days,” while the complete restoration of the networks could take two to three months.

Prachuk said an earlier Facebook post by the district administration, in which some people were advised to consider evacuation, is being investigated by Ukraine’s security services as an “element of mixed warfare” by Russia.

This post has since been deleted.

“No representative of the authorities in the region has made any appeals for the evacuation of the residents of Odessa and the region,” Prachuk said.

Odessa had more than a million residents before the February 24 invasion, which Russia described as a “special military operation” to “discredit” its smaller neighbour.

Kiev says Russia has launched hundreds of Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones on targets in Ukraine, calling the attacks war crimes because of their devastating impact on civilian lives. Moscow says its attacks are militarily legitimate and do not target civilians.

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The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office said Shahed-136s bombed two energy facilities in the Odessa region.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Facebook that 15 drones had been fired at targets in the southern regions of Odessa and Mykolaiv, and that 10 drones had been shot down.

Tehran denies supplying the drones to Moscow. Kyiv and its Western allies say this is a lie.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Saturday it believes Iranian military support to Russia is likely to increase in the coming months, including possible deliveries of ballistic missiles.

(Reporting by Max Honder and David Leungren). Editing by Ross Russell, Daniel Wallis, and William Mallard

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