Russia Launched One of Its Worst Attacks on Ukraine’s Energy Grid This Morning

But by Nightfall, Vlad Is Absolutely Not Going to Be Glad

Shankar Narayan
6 min readApr 11, 2024

This morning was not a good day for Ukraine. Russia launched its second worst attack on Ukraine’s energy grid, sending 82 missiles and drones to five different regions. Ten missiles were aimed at Kharkhiv city.

Russia, over the last three weeks has aimed it missiles towards power production units in Ukraine. Between March 22 and 29th, seven thermal power plants in Ukraine were targeted, along with two hydroelectric power stations.

The March 22 attack, when Russia unleashed more than 60 drones and 90 missiles across Ukraine, got labelled as “the worst assault on the country’s energy infrastructure since the full-scale invasion began in early 2022”.

Russians have launched attacks with nearly 100 missiles, but most of the time, those attacks were spread out, targeting many different types of assets. March 22nd marked the first time Russia unleashed around 100 missiles and specifically targeted Ukraine’s power production infrastructure.

The timing of these attacks is noteworthy. Russians have previously targeted Ukraine’s power production and transmission grid, typically reserving such attacks for the pre-winter and winter period when power generation and heating demand peak. Destroying infrastructure during this time inflicts greater harm on Ukraine.

Now, they are conducting these attacks right before the summer, when power demand is expected to be lower. They are fully aware that the grid will not completely collapse as Ukraine connected its power grid to eastern NATO countries.

So what is that Mr. Putin want to do?

“Had it not been for the warm weather, energy imports from the EU and an increase in renewable energy generation, Ukraine would have experienced widespread blackouts, as it did in 2022–23”, Maxim Timchenko, chief executive of DTEK, Ukraine’s largest energy producers, told Financial Times.

Almost a tit-for-tat response to Ukraine’s actions. Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure from March 22nd to 29th (still ongoing) escalated one week after Ukraine destroyed the atmospheric distillation units of multiple refiners in Western Russia (March 12th to 17th), resulting in nearly 14% of Russian refining capacity going offline.

Ukraine increased the cost of war for Russia by taking its refiners offline. In response, Putin has targeted Ukraine’s power production capacity, causing it to go offline.

These attacks are not going to stop. As long as Putin has enough missiles — production estimated to be around 100 to 130 per month — he will continue to use them. Ukraine’s energy grid and all civilian infrastructure will remain primary targets.

There is another reason: this will force Ukraine to relocate its air-defense assets deep within Ukrainian territory, away from the frontline. This strategic move is crucial, as the Patriot system that Ukraine has been deploying on the frontline has proven to be a significant headache for the Russians, resulting in the downing of more than 13 fighter jets in February this year.

As the they aim to escalate the offensive and capitalize on America’s inability to supply military aid to Ukraine, the Russians require their air force at full capacity to deploy glide bombs on the frontline. It’s highly probable that Ukraine has already relocated its Patriot system from the frontline, positioning it to safeguard either its urban centers or crucial energy assets.

Likely both.

The final advantage is that these attacks will continue to deplete Ukraine’s air-defense stockpile. It’s evident that Ukraine is running short of air-defense missiles; American aid has been cut for more than six months. Russia is aware of the number of missiles it has launched, how many were intercepted, and how many interceptions failed.

With each breakthrough they achieve, they also gather information about the density of Ukrainian response. By comparing it to prior density, they can estimate the number of interceptors in Ukraine’s possession in the given region.

They will continue with these actions. This situation is exceedingly perilous because large salvos have the potential to disable the Patriot system itself, which would be catastrophic. However, this is the current reality. There was absolutely no need to be in this position. There are hundreds of Patriot launchers worldwide, and the entire West possesses 100 Patriot batteries. I suspect the number of available interceptors around the world to be in the order of thousands.

And here we have it: a single democracy, embroiled in the worst war of the last seventy years against a tyrant, finds itself without weapons that are in stock.

No wonder sometimes dictators laugh at democratic leaders. They often appear indecisive, and even when they do make decisions, they sometimes lack the spine to execute them.

What can Ukraine do?

Practially nothing.

Air-defense is one area where they were helpless yesterday, remain helpless today, and will likely be helpless tomorrow as well. Even the Russians find themselves in a similar predicament. If the West provides Ukraine with a substantial number of long-range missiles, then Putin will also face the same challenge.

Both Ukraine and Russia have weaknesses in air defense. In the current situation, the country that possesses long-range missiles and a strong air force will always have the upper hand. Currently, that country is Russia. It’s not because the West lacks these weapons, but rather they are hesitant to provide them.

So, once again, this is a significant self-inflicted wound.

The only solution is to deliver Patriot systems to Ukraine. Simply relocate them from Europe and send them with 400 interceptors. That is the only viable option.

There is no other way.

And it has to be done by Europe.

Is Europe taking action, or will they follow their usual pattern of overpromising and underdelivering? They do get things done, but only after forcing us into mild to severe heart attacks.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has been going around in Europe to move things forward.

A few hours ago he tweeted:

Following our meeting with Joesph Borrell in Brussels, I called him to review the progress made over the course of the past week in fulfilling President Zelensky‘s task to deliver additional “Patriot” systems for Ukraine.

HR/VP informed me of the steps taken by the EU. I thank him for all of his active efforts. We know where the Patriots are and are working at every level to strengthen Ukrainian air defense. Patriot diplomacy is in full swing. We also discussed the deliveries of artillery ammunition and other military aid to Ukraine.

Last week, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, announced that Germany would take on the responsibility of locating Patriot systems and missiles worldwide, and then sending some to Ukraine.

Just an hour ago, the EU Parliament refused to approve the council budget, demanding that Patriot systems be sent to Ukraine.

I don’t believe Europe is experiencing a “Mike Johnson moment” — making promises, getting closer, and then backing out. There is significant internal pressure, and I believe something will give in soon, especially given the decision to block the council budget.

I don’t think they will sign off on the budget unless a clearly defined answer is given.

I am not sure how many Patriot systems Europe will manage to send. If they manage to send anything in the high single digits, it will be a game-changer on the battlefield. Even one additional system will make a difference, but the higher the number goes, it will create an avalanche effect.

It will not only help Ukraine protect its existing assets, but it will also lay the groundwork for the arrival of F16s on the battlefield. Ukraine cannot bring those jets into the country unless there are enough air-defense systems in place. The F16s would be as good as dead upon arrival. However, if there is strong air-defense protection for the F16s when they are parked, then together, the F16s and Patriots will bring the sky under Ukraine’s control.

This is a monumental moment for Europe. I would argue that their decision has the power to shift the balance against Putin. Conversely, if they do not supply the air-defense systems and missiles, and if Biden follows suit, the next eight weeks will witness Ukraine losing a significant number of lives and territory, becoming the biggest victim of 21st-century propaganda.

I think poor Vlad never considered Europe to be his worthy adversary. He always believed it would be the United States. So, all the focus and effort remain fixed on immobilizing the two parties in the United States. It would be poetic if Europe takes on the heavy lifting and sends air-defense systems to Ukraine, becoming the root cause of his defeat.

You can’t keep looking at Biden and Trump all the time, Vlad.

You, can’t.
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Shankar Narayan

He didn't care what he had or what he had left, he cared only about what he must do.