Image: Firefighters respond to a Russian missile strike on March 22 in Ukraine’s northeastern Sumy region. Credit: State Emergency Service of Ukraine

Massive Russian missile barrage causes blackouts, internet outages across Ukraine

Russia’s largest air strikes yet on Ukrainian critical infrastructure left nearly 1.5 million people without power overnight and into Friday. 

Russia fired a total of 150 missiles and drones, damaging energy facilities across the country, including several thermal power plants and Ukraine’s largest hydroelectric power station. 

Internet connectivity in the country was also affected by the attack, according to data from internet monitoring services NetBlocks and Cloudflare Radar.

Ukraine’s eastern regions were affected the most with “infrastructural impacts most evident in Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Vinnytsia and Khmelnytskyi," according to NetBlocks. The situation in Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv is particularly severe. Internet traffic in the city has dropped by 68% from last week, as reported by Cloudflare Radar.

Kharkiv’s local state officials said that Russia left the city almost without power. The blackouts affected the water supply, electrical transport, and the system that announces air-raid alerts in the city. To notify citizens about the possible threats from Russia, local police will use loudspeakers and walkie-talkies.

This is not the first time that Russian missile strikes have resulted in power and internet outages in Ukraine. Earlier in January, internet connectivity in Kyiv was “significantly” disrupted after dozens of Russian missiles hit the city. In October of 2022, the country experienced a nationwide disruption in communication services after Russian missiles damaged some of its telecommunication infrastructure and energy facilities.

The latest missile strikes against Ukraine's critical facilities was the largest barrage and the most well thought-out, according to Oleksandr Kharchenko, director of Ukraine’s Energy Research Center. 

“The scale of the operation required a lot of time for preparation,” he said. The Russians stockpiled missiles and drones, analyzed last year's attacks, and collected information about the current state of the power system in Ukraine and the level of protection that had been built.

Prior to the attack, Russia also launched an information operation against Ukraine, Kharchenko said: "They used media and Telegram channels to spread panic, including claims that Ukraine’s hydroelectric power station located on the Dnipro River would soon collapse and flood everything.”

Ukrainian authorities claim that despite the scale and intensity of the attack, its goal — causing a total blackout in the country — wasn’t achieved.

Earlier this month, Russia attempted to cause a communication blackout in Ukraine using cyber means. According to reports, hackers linked to Russian threat actor Sandworm knocked down several Ukrainian internet providers, disrupting their operations for more than a week.

In December, the same group hacked Ukraine’s largest telecom operator, Kyivstar, leaving millions of people without cell service and internet.

During some of its attacks, Russia combines both kinetic warfare and cyber means to cause more harm to its victims.

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk

is a reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.