Kyiv warns of disaster over Moscow's attacks on energy facilities
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a meeting with the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Odile Renaud-Basso at the Mariinsky Palace. -/Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Russia's escalating attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure could spark a major "humanitarian catastrophe" as the war-battered country braces for the arrival of snow and cold, the government in Kyiv said on Saturday.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had fired dozens of missiles at Ukraine. "The aggressor continues to terrorize our country," he said in remarks from Kiev.

Many of them were shot down by air defenses but others managed to strike energy facilities, he said, urging world powers to help "stop this terror."

He thanked energy service providers and grid operators who were in the process of rebuilding critical sites despite the risks. Some 40% of the country's energy infrastructure has already been destroyed, according to Kiev.

Some 1.5 million customers of the Ukrenergo power company were without electricity in the country, Zelensky's office said.

Ukrenergo spoke of severe damage caused by Russian attacks in the west of the country on Saturday. An energy facility in Luzk was hit hard and the supply failed, authorities said.

"By striking Ukraine's critical infrastructure, the Kremlin wants to provoke new refugees flee to Europe," tweeted Zelensky adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.

"The only way to stop humanitarian catastrophe," he wrote, is "to transfer air defense and additional missiles fast."

According to Ukrainian figures, there were a total of 40 missile attacks on Saturday, and the Russian side also deployed 16 Iranian drones. Twenty missiles and 11 combat drones were said to have been shot down.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed a large number of missile attacks on several parts of Ukraine, sparking air raid alarms nationwide on Saturday.

Ukrainian authorities and media reported explosions in the north-western city of Rivne, in the greater Kiev area and Odessa, among other regions.

In another message late Saturday evening, Zelensky again called on the population to save electricity, saying the regions of Khmelnytskyi, Odessa, Zaporizhzhya and Dnipropetrovsk had been most affected by the attacks.

"The main target of the terrorists is energy," he said.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal also warned of a new wave of refugees in light of the intensifying missile and drone strikes.

"If there is no more electricity, no more heating, no more water in Ukraine, this can trigger a new migration tsunami," he told the Sunday edition of Germany's broadsheet Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in comments seen in advance by dpa.

Shmyhal accused Russia of wanting to "plunge Ukraine into a humanitarian catastrophe" by attacking its civilian infrastructure.

In view of this, he asked for "mobile equipment to generate electricity and heat" as well as equipment for water treatment. Fuel for the generators is still available "at the moment ... but if there are large-scale power and heating failures, [Ukraine] will need more," including "electricity imports" from the West.

Meanwhile, the governor of the Russian border region of Belgorod accused Ukraine of heavy shelling that killed two people and injured 11 others in the town of Shebekino.

Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said energy infrastructure was also hit in the shelling and that some 15,000 people were temporarily without electricity, heating and water.

The Belgorod region, along with other border regions such as Kursk and Bryansk, has complained of taking fire from Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's invasion in February.