“Russia is likely removing the nuclear warheads from ageing nuclear cruise missiles and firing the unarmed munitions at Ukraine,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said Saturday in an intelligence update posted on Twitter about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Open source imagery shows wreckage of an apparently shot-down AS-15 KENT air launched cruise missile (ALCM), designed in the 1980s exclusively as a nuclear delivery system. The warhead had probably been substituted for ballast.”
The ministry said, “Although such an inert system will still produce some damage through the missile’s kinetic energy and any unspent fuel, it is unlikely to achieve reliable effects against intended targets. Russia almost certainly hopes such missiles will function as decoys and divert Ukrainian air defenses.”
“Whatever Russia’s intent,” the British agency said, “this improvisation highlights the level of depletion in Russia’s stock of long-range missiles.
Ukrainian authorities have worked to restore power throughout the country, making some progress to repair the electric grid following Russian missile attacks, but are still unable to immediately help millions of Ukrainians in the dark.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Friday that workers had managed to halve the number of people whose electricity had been cut off since Wednesday. However, he said 6 million Ukrainians were still without power.
National power grid operator Ukrenergo said on Telegram on Friday, “Repairs crews are working around the clock.”
It said 30% of electricity supplies were still out, and asked people to conserve energy.
Zelenskyy also pleaded with people to cut back on the amount of energy they use.
“If there is electricity, this doesn’t mean you can turn on several powerful electrical appliances at once,” he said.
Russian forces unleashed yet another devastating missile barrage against Ukraine on Wednesday, causing Kyiv’s biggest outages since the invasion began nine months ago.
Ukraine said the attacks are clearly intended to harm civilians, making them a war crime. Russia has said it targets only military-linked infrastructure and has blamed Kyiv for the blackouts.
The weather forecast across much of Ukraine for coming days calls for rain and snow and temperatures in the single digits, Celsius.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that Russian missile attacks on civilian infrastructure are leaving the country’s population without heat, lights and food in a “horrific start” to the winter.
Speaking in Brussels, Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin “is failing in Ukraine, and he is responding with more brutality.”
Stoltenberg said NATO would continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. He said the members of the alliance have been “providing unprecedented military support” and other aid for Ukraine.
NATO countries have also been delivering fuel, generators, medical supplies, winter equipment and drone-jamming devices, he said, but added that more will be needed as winter closes in, particularly as Russia continues to target Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
In other developments Friday, missiles struck the recently liberated city of Kherson for the second day.
At least 11 people were killed in the strikes, which began Thursday and continued into Friday, according to The Associated Press.
Russia withdrew its forces from the city two weeks ago, however Russian troops remain on the other side of the Dnieper River, where they can fire missiles at Kherhson.
On the diplomatic front, European leaders pledged more support for Ukraine.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly announced a new aid package for Ukraine during his visit to Kyiv on Friday.
The package — worth about $60 million, according to Britain — includes radar and other technology to counter the Iranian-supplied exploding drones that Russia has used against Ukrainian targets, especially the power grid. The aid comes on top of a delivery of more than 1,000 surface-to-air missiles that Britain announced earlier in November.
“Words are not enough. Words won’t keep the lights on this winter. Words won’t defend against Russian missiles,” Cleverly said in a tweet about the military aid. He added that “as winter sets in, Russia is continuing to try and break Ukrainian resolve through its brutal attacks on civilians, hospitals, and energy infrastructure.”
France will send 100 high-powered generators to Ukraine to help people get through the winter, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna also announced Friday. She said Russia is “weaponizing” winter and plunging Ukraine’s civilian population into hardship.
In addition to European aid, the United Nations humanitarian office said the global body and its partners were sending hundreds of generators to Ukraine to help Kyiv in its efforts to keep people warm and maintain essential services, such as health care. The World Health Organization said it is sending generators to hospitals in Ukraine.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said Friday he was shocked at the depth of civilian suffering caused by the bombing, amid broader allegations of abuses.
“Millions are being plunged into extreme hardship and appalling conditions of life by these strikes,” Türk said in a statement Friday.
“Taken as a whole, this raises serious problems under international humanitarian law, which requires a concrete and direct military advantage for each object attacked,” he said.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.