KYIV: Russia admitted two years into its invasion of Ukraine on Friday that it was “in a state of war,” as it launched a massive wave of missile and drone attacks on its neighbour’s territory.

Russia fired almost 90 missiles and more than 60 Iranian-designed kamikaze drones, damaging dozens of energy facilities including power stations, in what Ukrainian officials said was an attempt to cripple the country’s electricity and heating supply.

Russia said the wave of strikes was retaliation for a series of Ukrainian attacks on its border regions in recent weeks.

At least five people were killed and more than 20 injured, according to Ukraine’s interior ministry and local officials.

“We are in a state of war,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview to a pro-Kremlin newspaper, published on Friday.

Fires 90 missiles, 60 drones, damages energy facilities

The admission marks an escalation in official language used to describe the conflict, which the Kremlin initially referred to as a “special military operation”.

“Yes, it started as a special military operation, but as soon as this bunch was formed there, when the collective West became a participant on Ukraine’s side, for us it already became a war,” Peskov said.

“De jure (legally) it is a special military operation. But de facto it has turned into a war,” he added.

Moscow often accuses the West of direct participation in the conflict by supplying Ukraine with weapons.

Calling Friday’s strikes “retaliation” for recent Ukrainian attacks, Moscow’s defence ministry said it had targeted Ukraine’s “energy sites, military-industrial complex, railway hubs and arsenals.” “All of the objectives of the massive strike were achieved,” it said.

‘Largest on record’

Ukraine’s state-run power grid, Ukrenergo, said the attack on the energy network was the “largest on record.” It said “dozens of power system facilities have been damaged,” including thermal and hydroelectric power plants.

More than 1.5 million people were left without power across at least eight regions, the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed once again on Friday for more Western arms, blasting political “indecision” that he said was costing Ukrainian lives.

Ukraine has struggled with shortages of both air defences to protect its skies and ammunition on the ground, as a vital $60 billion military aid package is currently held up in the US Congress.

“Russian missiles do not have delays, as do aid packages to our country. The ‘Shahed’ (drones) have no indecision, like some politicians. It is important to understand the cost of delays and postponed decisions,” he said.

“We need air defence to protect people, infrastructure, homes and dams. Our partners know exactly what is needed. They can definitely support us... Life must be protected from these non-humans from Moscow.”

Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 37 of the 88 missiles fired overnight and 55 of 63 drones.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2024

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