Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s supply lines are intensifying. The Ukrainian national railway did not fold

The Lviv power plant was among six railway structures in central and western Ukraine targeted by Russian forces on Tuesday evening, according to the president of the Ukrainian railways Olexander Kamyshin.

Coordinated strikes briefly cut electricity in parts of the region and caused long delays for more than 40 trains.

“There have also been outages in our pumping stations, which are supplying water to the city,” Lviv Deputy Mayor Serhiy Kiral told CNN. He said contingency plans were being carried out to ensure that the water supply was not affected by the strikes.

Tuesday’s attack marks the latest in a series of recent attacks on the country’s infrastructure, with the rail network now one of Russia’s key targets.

On Wednesday, Russia said it believed any weapons, including NATO equipment, arriving and moving within Ukraine were a target, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

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Five train stations in western and central Ukraine were hit within an hour on 25 April. Two days later, a missile struck a rail and road bridge across the Dniester estuary that left the southern port city of Odesa with the country’s far southwest region. Then on Friday, another major railway bridge was blown up near the city of Sloviansk in the eastern Donetsk region.

In early April, in one of the deadliest attacks to date, at least 50 people, including five children, were killed after Russian forces carried out a missile strike on a Kramatorsk railway station.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday that Russian forces were “attempting to achieve what we believe are critical infrastructure targets to the West” in Ukraine, including “electricity, transportation hubs, that sort of thing.”

Kirby said that despite the most recent attacks, the United States is still able to “flow” military assistance into the region, including “weapons systems” and other materials.

Dozens of deaths in railway station missile attack in eastern Ukraine as civilians try to escape Russian assault

The national railway has always played a crucial economic role in Ukraine, transporting the exports of agriculture and heavy industry across the vast territory of the country.

But since the Russian invasion began in late February, the rail network has become Ukraine’s lifeline to the outside world – that’s how weapons, supplies, and humanitarian aid enter the country.

Mayor Kiral downplayed Russia’s attempts, saying he believed it would have “no significant effect” on supplies from the West.

However, he admitted that the attacks could hamper Ukraine’s trade with the outside world. “It could affect exports of Ukrainian raw materials, which is very critical at these times of the year as we have to harvest more than five million tons of wheat to be ready for the new harvest.”

Railway workers clear debris from the Lviv power plant.
The network has also been the backbone of global diplomacy and solidarity. When foreign officials – including EU leaders, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – visited the country, they too traveled in and out by train.
It is also a key lifeline for the many who have escaped the fight. According to Ukrainian railways, 3.8 million people – nearly 10% of the country’s entire population – used trains to escape to safety in the first two months of the war.

For the more than 230,000 Ukrainians working for the rail network, the recent attacks are a reminder of how dangerous – and vital – their jobs have become.

“We are worried. When we hear the siren, we have to run to the shelter. Just yesterday, two missiles hit nearby,” Andriy, a railroad worker on one of the lines leading from Poland to Lviv, told CNN. Andriy refused to provide his last name due to concerns about his safety. The railway is a strategic asset and its employees are not officially authorized to speak to the media.

Andriy, who has been in the rail industry for 28 years, said he was incredibly proud to be part of the effort that gets Ukraine moving.

As he dug stones and dirt under the railing, he spoke of his fear. “We just want to work safely, nobody wants to be hit by the air,” she said.

Railway workers repair part of the railway line connecting Lviv to Poland.

Because the railway plays such an important role in the conflict, the Ukrainians have also used it tactfully, hitting key parts of their network in areas of the country occupied by Russia.

On Thursday, Ukrainian forces blew up a bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula to a part of Russian-occupied southern Ukraine in an attempt to cut off the flow of weapons.

Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa military administration, said Russian forces were using the bridge to “supply weapons and fuel from Crimea”.

Andriy’s colleague Maksym is working on the railroad as part of his compulsory military service.

As a religious man, Maksym, who also refused to provide his surname, said his faith does not allow him to take up arms. “So I’m doing it as an alternative,” he told CNN, saying making sure the trains keep running is his way of fighting.

CNN’s Tim Lister, Madalena Araujo Isa Soares contributed reports from Lviv, Ukraine. CNN’s Michael Conte, Barbara Starr and Nicky Robertson also contributed to the report.