Ukraine and Moldova suffer internet disruptions after Russian missile strikes

Date: 2022-11-23T21:06:40+00:00

Location: therecord.media

Internet connectivity was disrupted in Ukraine and neighboring Moldova after dozens of Russian missiles hit Ukrainian cities on Wednesday, causing massive power outages across the country.

Data from internet monitoring firm NetBlocks shows that internet availability in Ukraine dropped by nearly 65% after Russian missiles hit the country’s energy facilities. 

The energy infrastructure in urban areas has been hit hardest, leading to worse internet access in cities than elsewhere. For example, the entire city of Lviv in the west of Ukraine was without electricity for at least several hours during the day.

Russian attacks caused similar disruptions in Moldova, which shares a border with Ukraine and is connected to Ukraine’s power grid. 

More than half of Moldova was also left without electricity, including its capital Chisinau and the breakaway Russian-backed region of Transnistria, according to Moldova’s deputy prime minister Andrei Spinu. The country’s President Maia Sandu said that Moldova “can’t trust a regime” that leaves it “in the dark and cold.”

This is the second time this month that Moldova has experienced blackouts due to Russian attacks on Ukraine. A missile strike on November 15 temporarily shut down one of Moldova’s key power lines, leaving “more than a half-dozen cities” without electricity. 

Russia fired a total of 70 missiles and five drones at Ukraine on Wednesday, killing five people and injuring 35. The attack came shortly after the European Parliament recognized Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

After the attack on Wednesday, all Ukrainian nuclear power plants and most thermal power plants were temporarily shut down. Some online services, such as Glovo food delivery, were also down due to power outages.

Ukraine had already been experiencing Internet outages on a daily basis. Russian missile strikes have knocked out nearly half of Ukraine’s energy system, forcing the government to shut down electricity in areas for three to six hours several times throughout the day.

Due to emergency blackouts, thousands of Ukrainians do not have water supply, heating, and access to the broadband internet. Mobile internet works with interruptions because telecom operators cannot handle the traffic.

Ukrainian internet providers use electricity generators to keep Ukrainians connected, according to Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation. One generator can work from 8 to 40 hours without refueling.

Local authorities also plan to introduce free WiFi hotspots throughout Ukraine, where people can access the internet and charge their devices if power outages last several days.

To restore communication in the cities where Russia destroyed much of the internet infrastructure, Ukrainian telecom providers use Starlink satellite internet terminals, supplied by the U.S. company SpaceX. 

Ukraine has more than 22,000 Starlink terminals supplied by local volunteers, European allies, the U.S. government, and private companies; about 3,670 terminals were donated to Ukraine by SpaceX.

Daryna Antoniuk is a freelance reporter for The Record 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.