Bridget Brink, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, condemned the “brutal” strike on a city whose citizens had “already suffered so much” when retreating Russian forces cut off power and water to Kherson on their way out.
“Truly horrific, especially on Christmas Eve,” she tweeted.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is now fought in two largely separate arenas: ground battles in the south and east, and air contests between Ukraine’s defense systems and Russia’s cruise missiles and drones aimed at electrical infrastructure. Military analysts say the infrastructure-targeting campaign is intended to demoralize Ukrainians and push their government into a cease-fire that might allow Russia time to regroup and rearm for future offensives.
Since October, Russia has fired volleys of missiles and drones at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in intervals of roughly a week to 10 days, according to Ukraine’s military intelligence chief. Most barrages have included around 75 missiles.
That tempo is likely set based on Russia’s weapons supply, Britain’s defense intelligence agency said on Saturday.
“Russia has likely limited its long-range missile strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure to around once a week due to the limited availability of cruise missiles,” the agency said in its daily update. “Similarly, Russia is unlikely to have increased its stockpile of artillery munitions enough to enable large-scale offensive operations.”
For weeks, Ukrainian officials have expressed concern that Russian forces could use neighboring Belarus as a launchpad for a new ground offensive, with Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, a potential target. A rare visit by President Vladimir V. Putin this week to Belarus to meet with his closest regional ally, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, amplified those concerns. Mr. Lukashenko, in turn, traveled to Russia on Saturday, state media reported.
But the director of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said in an interview with The New York Times on Friday that, while the possibility could not be entirely ruled out, a recent flurry of Russian military activity in Belarus was an attempt by Moscow to trick Ukraine into diverting soldiers from the active front line in the southeast of the country.