- Most of the power in the capital has been restored after the worst outages yet
- United States: Russia is trying to freeze Ukraine into submission
- Kyiv aims to have its nuclear power plants back by the end of Thursday
- President Zelensky says: “We are an unbreakable people”
Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the United Nations to punish Russia for air strikes on civilian infrastructure after missile barrages plunged cities into darkness in the country’s worst nationwide blackout yet.
With temperatures dipping below freezing, authorities were working Thursday to restore lighting and heating. Russia’s latest missile barrage killed 10 people and shut down all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants for the first time in 40 years.
Kyiv regional authorities said electricity was restored to three-quarters of the capital by Thursday morning and water was running again in some areas. Transport is back in operation in the city, with buses replacing electric trams.
Authorities hope to have the three nuclear power plants in the territory controlled by Ukraine back in operation by the end of the day.
Since early October, Russia has launched massive barrages of air strikes once a week on energy targets across Ukraine, each time firing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of missiles to hit Ukraine’s power grid.
Moscow admits to attacking essential infrastructure, saying its goal is to limit Ukraine’s ability to fight and push it to negotiate. Kyiv says such attacks are clearly intended to harm civilians, making them a war crime.
“Today is only one day, but we have received 70 missiles. This is the Russian formula for terrorism. All of this is against our energy infrastructure,” Zelensky said overnight via video link to the UN Security Council chamber. “Hospitals, schools, transportation and residential neighborhoods have all suffered.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was Kyiv’s fault that the Ukrainians were suffering because they refused to comply with Moscow’s unauthorized demands. Ukraine says it will not stop fighting until all Russian forces are gone.
“What is there to talk about? I think the first step should come from them. For starters, they have to stop bombing us,” said Olena Schavinska, 27, as she stood in line at a water pump in a park in central Kyiv. with a group of friends.
For the first time, Russian attacks have forced the city of Kyiv to shut down the three nuclear power plants it still controls. Fourth, in Russian-controlled territory, he also had to activate backup diesel power. Nuclear officials say blackouts could disrupt cooling systems and cause a nuclear disaster.
“There is a real danger of a nuclear and radiological catastrophe as a result of the firing of cruise and ballistic missiles over the entire territory of Ukraine,” said Petro Kotin, head of the Ukrainian nuclear energy company Energoatom.
Russia must be held accountable for this shameful crime.”
Winter has suddenly come to Ukraine and temperatures are well below freezing in the capital of three million people. US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “was clearly using winter as a weapon to inflict enormous suffering on the Ukrainian people.”
She added that the Russian president “will try to freeze and subjugate the country.”
There was no prospect of Security Council action, as Russia exercises veto power. Moscow’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, said it went against council rules for Zelensky’s video appearance, dismissing what he called “reckless threats and ultimatums” by Ukraine and its supporters in the West.
He blamed the damage to Ukrainian infrastructure on its air defense missiles and said the West should stop supplying them.
Ukrainian authorities said that three residential complexes were bombed on Wednesday, killing 10 people.
“Our little girl was sleeping. She’s two years old. She was sleeping and I was covered. She’s alive, thank God,” said a man who gave his name as Fyodor, dragging a suitcase as he walked away from a burning apartment. Hit the building in Kyiv.
The power outage also spread to neighboring Moldova, where authorities said most electricity was back on by Thursday.
Moscow has turned to the tactic of striking at Ukraine’s infrastructure even as Kyiv has inflicted battlefield defeats on Russian forces since September. Russia also announced the annexation of the lands it occupies and called up hundreds of thousands of reservists.
The war’s first winter will now test whether Ukraine can press ahead with its campaign to reclaim territory, or whether Russian leaders can keep their invasion forces supplied and find a way to stem Kyiv’s momentum.
With its withdrawal, Russia had a much shorter line of defense to hold on to captured territory, with more than a third of the front now closed off by the Dnipro River.
Mark Hertling, the former commander of US ground forces in Europe, said on Twitter: “Ukraine’s capabilities will slowly grow, but continued maneuvering east of the Dnipro River and in the Russian-occupied Donbass region will prove to be tougher battles.”
“Ukrainian morale will be tested as Russian attacks against civilian infrastructure continue…but Ukraine will persevere.”
Russia has been waging its own offensive along the front line west of the city of Donetsk, which has been controlled by Moscow’s proxies since 2014. Ukraine says it has killed thousands of Russian soldiers there and yielded little ground, describing the Russians as having entered a battle with Russia. Little equipment or training.
Ukraine’s General Staff said that Russian forces again attempted to advance towards their main objectives in the Donetsk region – Pakhmut and Avdiivka with limited success.
To the south, Russian forces have been digging in on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, shelling areas across it including the city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces regained control this month.
Reuters could not immediately verify accounts of the battlefield.
Moscow says it is carrying out a “special military operation” to protect Russian speakers in what Putin calls an artificial state carved out of Russia. Ukraine and the West describe the invasion as an unprovoked war of aggression.
Additional reporting by Stefania Bern and Reuters. Writing by Peter Graf Editing by Philippa Fletcher
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