Missiles strike Kyiv as E.U. brands Russia a state sponsor of terrorism

Photo for The Washington Post by Heidi Levine
Rescue workers search through the rubble of the hospital.

KYIV, Ukraine – Russia on Wednesday pounded Ukraine with another barrage of missiles, striking critical energy infrastructure and residential areas and setting off blackouts across the entire country, including in Kyiv, the capital, and Lviv in the west.

At least four people were killed in the Kyiv region, Gov. Oleksiy Kuleba said, and at least 34 were injured, including five children.

As Moscow persisted in its relentless bid to leave millions of Ukrainians without electricity, heat and water during the cold winter months, the European Parliament in a symbolic vote on Wednesday designated Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” citing its “brutal and inhumane acts” against ordinary citizens.

In a video address to the U.N. Security Council, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a “firm reaction” to the carnage. “In our midst,” he told the council, which included Russia’s ambassador, “you have the representative of a state that does not offer anything to the world but terror” and should not participate “in any kind of voting concerning its terror.”

“This is a dead end,” Zelensky said at the emergency meeting, called by the United States and Albania to discuss the Russian strikes. “We need your decision.”

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motive “could not be more clear and more coldblooded. … He has decided that if he can’t seize Ukraine by force, he will try to freeze the country into submission.”

But while condemnation of the Russian strikes was widespread, a number of council members from Africa, along with India, China, Brazil and others, expressed concern that what have become near-weekly meetings on the crisis were not achieving much and called for renewed diplomacy to stop the war.

In addition to what Ukraine’s main power grid operator, Ukrenergo, said on its Telegram channel were blackouts in “all regions” of the country, the Energy Ministry said that strikes had led to temporary shutdowns at all nuclear power plants under Kyiv’s control, as well as at “the majority of thermal and hydroelectric plants.”

Power was also knocked out across most of neighboring Moldova, where the electric grid is connected to Ukraine. Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu, posting on Twitter, said that he had summoned the Russian ambassador for “explanations.”

Ukraine’s air force said that it had shot down 51 out of 70 missiles launched on Wednesday and had also destroyed five self-destructing drones. The Kyiv city military administration reported that of 31 missiles fired at the capital, 22 were intercepted by air defense systems.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko also said that the city’s water supply would be cut off temporarily, and as night fell, large portions of the city were without electricity. The strikes also left all of Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine, without power, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on his Telegram channel.

“While someone is waiting for World Cup results and the number of goals scored, Ukrainians are waiting for another score – number of intercepted Russian missiles,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, wrote on Twitter as the bombardment was underway.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has insisted the bombing is serving military purposes and will continue until Moscow’s war aims have been achieved.

One early-morning missile strike crushed the maternity ward of a hospital in Vilnyansk, a town in the Zaporizhzhia region, killing a 2-day-old baby boy.

The rocket, which Zelensky said was fired by Russia, struck the hospital at 2 a.m. as a mother was asleep next to her newborn’s crib, according to the hospital’s medical director, Valeria Kroshena.

The strike destroyed the second-floor maternity ward and the clinic beneath it, sending the building’s brick walls tumbling to the ground. The blast also injured a doctor who was on duty overnight and who is now recovering from serious burns, Kroshena said.

A different doctor, who delivered the newborn baby, was off-duty and rushed to the hospital as soon as she heard the blast, according to Kroshena. The doctor knew the only patients in the hospital that night were the mother and her infant son, Kroshena said, and she knew exactly where they were. The mother, who is in her mid-30s, was not injured. The boy was her fourth baby, Kroshena said. “It’s unthinkable,” she said.

Photo for The Washington Post by Heidi Levine
Hospital clothing hangs from a tree above rescue workers after a hospital was hit by a Russian missile in Vilnyansk, in Zaporizhzhia region, on Wednesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, rescue workers used excavators to dig through what was left of the maternity ward. Some rooms remained partially standing, with pieces of the ceiling collapsed onto hospital beds and a baby crib. Windows in the building next door were blown out and shattered from the blast.

The missile was a Russian-made S-300, local officials said.

The strike in Vilnyansk, about 20 miles northeast of Zaporizhzhia city, the regional capital, occurred less than a week after another missile hit a residential building in the same town, killing 11 people. Zaporizhzhia is one of four Ukrainian regions that Putin has claimed to be annexed by Russia – a violation of international law.

Despite Putin’s annexation claims, Russia has not occupied Zaporizhzhia city, and it has also retreated from Kherson city, the only regional capital it had seized since the start of the full-scale invasion in February.

Two of the dead in the earlier strike in Vilnyansk were also youths, ages 10 and 15.

After the Russian retreat from Kherson city, attention has turned to the Zaporizhzhia region as the most likely location for a new Ukrainian counteroffensive, potentially pushing south toward the occupied city of Melitopol and the critical Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant and dam in the Kherson region.

Wednesday’s vote by the European Parliament, the legislature of the 27-member European Union, reflected the continuing anger in Brussels and across Europe over Russia’s invasion and the outbreak of full-scale war on the European continent for the first time in the 21st century.

Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament, said that Wednesday’s resolution by the European Parliament violated international law and that a state cannot be branded as terrorist.

“Russia has always strongly opposed the concept of ‘state terrorism,’ ” Kosachev wrote in a statement posted on Telegram, adding, “The collective West is actively trying to introduce the principle of collective responsibility and punish all ‘objectionable’ countries and regimes simply because there is an alternative point of view and a different model of behavior.”

In his response at the U.N. Security Council, Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said that Russia’s strikes were designed to weaken “the military ability of our opponents” and were conducted with “precision.” He charged that Western-supplied weapons were responsible for much of the damage to residential and other civilian areas and chastised the international community, saying it had not shown the same concern for what he described as Ukrainian war crimes.

The Pentagon said Wednesday that it would expedite an additional $400 million in military assistance for Ukraine, including additional air defenses to counter Russia’s “unrelenting and brutal” missile and drone attacks on the country’s civilian infrastructure.

The package contains an unspecified number of munitions for the two NASAMS surface-to-air systems Washington has provided, plus 150 heavy machine guns equipped with thermal sights to help Ukrainian forces spot and gun down unmanned aircraft. More than 200 power generators will be sent from U.S. stockpiles as well.