Russian strikes force Ukraine into hour-long power outages

Kyiv – The head of Ukraine’s power grid on Friday warned of hours of power outages as Russia targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with heavy artillery and missile attacks that cut power to up to 40% of the country’s population at the start of winter.

Grid operator Ukrenergo said outages could last several hours, with freezing temperatures putting additional pressure on power grids.

“You always have to prepare for the worst. We understand that the enemy generally wants to destroy our energy system in order to cause long outages,” Ukrenergo CEO Volodymyr Kudrytskyi told Ukrainian state television. “We need to prepare for possible long outages, but for now we are putting planned schedules in place and will do everything we can to ensure outages are not very long.”

The capital of Kyiv is already facing a “huge electricity deficit,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko told The Associated Press. About 1.5 to 2 million people — about half the city’s population — are regularly plunged into darkness as authorities switch power from one district to another.

“It’s a critical situation,” he said.

Klitschko added that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military planners appear to be hoping to “get us all into depression,” making people feel insecure and “thinking, ‘Maybe we’ll give up.'” But it won’t work, he said.

“It’s wrong, it’s (a) wrong vision of Putin,” he said. “After every rocket attack, I talk to the people, to ordinary civilians. You (are) not depressed. They were angry, angry and willing to stay and defend our homes, our families and our futures.”

Kudrytskyi added that power supplies have been stabilized in critical facilities such as hospitals and schools.

In the north-eastern Kharkiv region, overnight shelling and rocket attacks targeted “critical infrastructure” and damaged power plants, according to Governor Oleh Syniehubov. Eight people, including energy crews and police officers, were injured trying to clear the debris, he said.

Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy and power plants have fueled fears of what the dead of winter will bring. Ukraine’s energy infrastructure was targeted again on Thursday, two days after Russia unleashed a nationwide barrage of more than 100 missiles and drones that deprived 10 million people of electricity.

These attacks have also hit neighboring countries like Moldova, where half a dozen cities across the country have been affected temporary power outages.

In the past 24 hours, Russian forces have unleashed the breadth of their arsenal to attack southeast Ukraine, using drones, missiles, heavy artillery and warplanes, killing at least six civilians and wounding six others, the president’s office said.

In the Zaporizhia region, part of which is still under Russian control, artillery shelled 10 towns and villages. The death toll in a rocket attack on an apartment building in the city of Vilniansk on Thursday has risen to nine people, according to Deputy Head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

In Nikopol, across the Dnieper from the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, 40 Russian rockets damaged several high-rise buildings, houses and a power line.

In the wake of his humiliating retreat from the southern city of ChersonMoscow intensified its attack on the eastern Donetsk region, where Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday its forces had taken control of the village of Opytne and repelled a Ukrainian counter-offensive to retake the settlements of Solodke, Volodymyrivka and Pavlivka.

The city of Bakhmut, a key target of Moscow’s attempt to seize the entire Donetsk region, remains the scene of fierce fighting, the regional governor said.

The Russian Defense Ministry also said Ukrainian troops had been pushed back from Yahidne in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv province and Kuzemivka in neighboring Luhansk province. Donetsk and Luhansk, along with Kherson and Zaporizhia, were among four Ukrainian provinces illegally annexed by Moscow in September.

At the same time, Moscow is strengthening its defenses in the southern region to thwart further Ukrainian advances. According to a British Ministry of Defense report, Russian troops have been constructing new trench systems near the border with Crimea and near the Siversky-Donets River between Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian and international investigators worked to uncover alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces during the nearly seven-month occupation of the Kharkiv region. Ukraine’s National Police said on Friday that its officers had launched over 3,000 criminal cases against Russian troops.

A fierce Ukrainian counter-offensive in September recaptured the Kharkiv region and pushed Russian forces back toward Donbass, the country’s eastern industrial center, and recaptured strategically located cities like Izium and Kupiansk.

Reports of torture and other atrocities committed by Russian troops have also surfaced from the southern Kherson region, where Ukrainian officials said they were more than open 430 war crimes cases and investigate four suspected torture sites.

Alesha Babenko, a 27-year-old from the village of Kyselivka, said he was arrested by the Russians in September and locked in a basement, then beaten daily while tied, blindfolded and threatened with electric shocks.

“I thought I was going to die,” he told the AP.

The retaking of Kyselivka following Russia’s withdrawal last week has sparked hopes in neighboring Mykolaiv province that they will regain tap water, which was shut off after the village fell into Russian hands. But Mykolayiv administrator Vitaly Kim predicted on Friday that it could take several weeks to restore water supplies.

Kherson residents queued up for food from a charity on Friday, with many saying they have nothing to eat and are living without heat or electricity. A man said: “All the refrigerators are defrosted, we have nothing to eat.”

Despite the tremendous difficulties across Ukraine, a hopeful sign emerged with the news that the first train from Kyiv to Kherson would depart on Friday evening. Ukraine’s state railway network, Ukrzaliznytsia, said around 200 passengers will travel by train – the first in nine months.

Dubbed the ‘Train to Victory’, the carriages of the train were painted in eclectic designs by Ukrainian artists and the tickets were sold as part of a charity project.

The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution in Vienna which, among other things, calls for Russia’s withdrawal from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia.

British Ambassador Corinne Kitsell tweeted that 24 countries voted in favor and two against the resolution. Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov said Russia and China voted against and seven other nations abstained.


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Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Russian strikes force Ukraine into hour-long power outages

Sarah Y. Kim

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