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Russian attacks have damaged at least 30% of Ukraine's energy infrastructure

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

With winter approaching, Russian attacks on Ukraine are increasingly targeting the country's energy infrastructure. Earlier today, Russian rockets hit energy facilities in multiple cities, including the capital, Kyiv. It was the second day in a row the city has woken up to explosions.

NPR's Nathan Rott is in Kyiv and joins us. Hi, Nate.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Hey, thanks.

PFEIFFER: What details have you been able to learn about today's strikes?

ROTT: Yeah, so here in Kyiv, there was a series of explosions this morning on the eastern side of the Dnipro River, which runs right through the middle of the city. And local officials say an electrical facility was targeted. Three people were killed. And that was just here in Kyiv. You know, explosions were also heard in Dnipro, another major city in south central Ukraine, and in Zhytomyr, which is in the northwest part of the country. Local authorities there were saying that there was a loss of electricity and water, and that hospitals were actually running on backup generators.

PFEIFFER: So as we mentioned, this is the second day in a row of this kind of targeting. Does that indicate that this is a deliberate attempt to go after Ukraine's energy sources?

ROTT: It definitely is. You know, Russia's defense ministry has said that they are targeting exclusively energy and military facilities. That said, we did visit a site yesterday here in Kyiv after a drone strike aimed at a heating facility that also hit a residential building across the street, and that attack killed at least five civilians, including, sadly, a woman who was six months pregnant.

I talked to a resident of the building next to the one that was hit. She was standing outside. Her name was Tamara Beruashvili, and she was pretty blunt about what she thinks Russia is trying to do to Ukraine right now.

TAMARA BERUASHVILI: These terrorists - they are targeting the civil infrastructure. They just want us Ukrainians to freeze in cold.

ROTT: And, you know, that was something we heard from Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, too. Here he is talking to local media just after the strike.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VITALI KLITSCHKO: (Speaking Ukrainian).

ROTT: "Russia needs Ukraine without Ukrainians," he said. "We see the attacks on energy facilities. They want to leave us without heating, electricity, life."

PFEIFFER: Nate, is it clear how much these Russian attacks have damaged Ukraine's energy infrastructure?

ROTT: Yeah, well, Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and other officials have said that about 30% of the country's energy infrastructure has been damaged by Russian attacks. And - look, that wasn't all in the last couple of days. Multiple thermal plants and substations have been hit in the last week. There was widespread missile attacks last week in particular. You know, we were without power in Lviv in the western part of the country while we were doing reporting there. Power outages continue to occur in many cities and towns around Ukraine, so officials here are urging people to conserve electricity as much as they can and to stock up on water.

PFEIFFER: We've been hearing about Russia's recent losses on the battlefield. Are these strikes related to that?

ROTT: You know, that's certainly how the Ukrainians are framing it. And I mean, you know, look, Ukraine has had a lot of success in recent weeks in retaking territory from Russia, particularly in the country's northeast. You know, obviously, Russia did not expect this. It thought it could take the country in a few days. And now areas they have taken are slowly slipping from their grasp.

And so this could absolutely be seen as a punishment, or it could be seen as a way to try to break the will of Ukrainian people who are hugely supportive of taking back all of these lands. A Gallup poll released today, which was conducted by phone, found that 70% of Ukrainians said their country should continue fighting until it wins the war. What winning looks like, obviously, is still a really big question. But with winter approaching, there are a lot of concerns about how the civilian population is going to fare in cities like here in Kyiv if there's no power or water.

PFEIFFER: That's NPR's Nate Rott in the Ukrainian capital. Nate, thanks for reporting on this.

ROTT: Yeah, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.