Russian drones strike Kyiv's power grid in third attack in a week

  • Grid operator calls the situation 'difficult'
  • Emergency power outages imposed in a slew of regions
  • Air defences shoot down 30 of 35 incoming drones

KYIV, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Russia attacked Ukraine with dozens of "kamikaze" drones in the early hours of Monday as people slept, hitting critical infrastructure in and around Kyiv in Moscow's third air attack on the Ukrainian capital in less than a week.

The Ukrainian Air Force said its air defences shot down 30 of 35 incoming drones, the latest in a series of Russian missile and drone attacks since October that have targeted the Ukrainian power grid causing sweeping blackouts in winter.

"Kamikaze" or "suicide" drones are cheaply produced, disposable unmanned aircraft that fly towards their target before plummeting at velocity and detonating on impact.

Kyiv's mayor said no one had died or been wounded in the attacks on Kyiv that rocked the capital's Solomianskyi nd Shevchenkivskyi districts, according to preliminary information.

Under the darkness of night, a fire raged at one site at an energy facility in the often targeted central Shevchenkivskyi district, a Reuters witness said.

"I heard an explosion. And in three or four minutes I heard another explosion," said an old man who works at a guard at a nearby hospital.

The Solomianskyi district in the western part of Kyiv is a busy transport hub, home to a train station and one of the city's two passenger airports.

The power grid operator described the situation as "difficult" and said the Dnipropetrovsk region and areas in the centre and east of the country were the worst affected.

Emergency power outages affected several locations, including Kyiv city, the surrounding region and the regions of Kharkiv, Sumy, Poltava and Zaporizhzhia, operator Ukrenergo said.

Kyiv officials said 18 out of 23 drones were shot down over the city of 3.6 million.

"As a result of the attack on the capital, critical infrastructure facilities were damaged," Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app.

"Energy and heating engineers are working to quickly stabilise the situation with energy and heat supply."

Oleskiy Kuleba, governor of the region surrounding Kyiv said infrastructure and private houses were damaged by the night drone attacks and that two people were wounded. He described the damage as "fairly serious."

Ukraine's military said the attack was carried out with Iranian-made Shahed drones that were launched from the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov. The sea lies to the east of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula which Russia seized from Kyiv in 2014.

Ukrainians nickname the Iranian-made drones "mopeds" for the buzzing sound of their engines.

Russia fired more than 70 missiles at Ukraine on Friday in one of its biggest attacks since the war began, knocking out power in the second-biggest city and forcing Kyiv to implement emergency blackouts nationwide, Ukrainian officials said.

Air raid alerts were issued at around 0220 local time (1220 GMT) and the sky was only finally declared clear at 0550 local time after the attacks.

Reporting by Gleb Garanich, Valentyn Ogirenko, Pavel Polityuk and Lidia Kelly; Writing by Tom Balmforth Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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