Ukraine has been struggling to reconnect water and electricity services to millions of people after a barrage of Russian missiles and drones hit power facilities on Wednesday, leaving nearly 80 percent of the country in darkness.
On Thursday evening, more than 24 hours after Russian attacks tore through areas of Kyiv, the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said 60 percent of homes were still under emergency conditions. As temperatures plunge below zero, authorities in Kyiv say they have managed to restore water supply but were still working to turn lights and heat back on.
“There is a very strong feeling that Russia is waging war against civilian infrastructure,” Jan Egeland, director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a statement on Thursday.
“The public cannot survive an entire winter without electricity, warmth and running water.” And it is now fragile,” he said, referring to ongoing attacks on the power grid from Moscow.
Ukraine’s power system is on the brink of collapse and millions have been hit by emergency shutdowns in recent weeks as Russia has attacked power plants in an apparent effort to force a truce after a nine-month war in which its forces have failed in most of them. declared territorial objectives.
Seen from space, Ukraine has become a dark spot on Earth at night, satellite images released by NASA show, following repeated barrages of Russian rockets in recent weeks.
The World Health Organization has warned of “life-threatening” consequences and estimated millions could flee their homes, but US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “definitely weaponizing winter”. causing immense suffering to the Ukrainian people”.
The Russian president “will try to freeze the country into submission,” she said Wednesday.
Russia denies attacks
Wednesday’s attacks disconnected three Ukrainian nuclear power plants from the national grid and caused blackouts in neighboring Moldova, where the power grid is connected to Ukraine. Power was almost fully restored in the former Soviet Union of Moldova on Thursday.
All three nuclear power plants had been reconnected by Thursday morning, Ukraine’s Energy Ministry said.
Ihor Terekhov, the mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, near the border with Russia, said water was being restored to homes.
“We have restarted the power supply. Believe me, it was very difficult,” he said.
But there were still disruptions across the country, and the central bank warned that the shutdown could hamper banking.
A new round of strikes on Thursday killed at least four people in the southern city of Kherson, which Ukraine recently recaptured, a senior official there said.
Ukraine accused Russian forces of launching about 70 cruise missiles and drones in attacks that killed 10 and wounded about 50 on Wednesday.
But the Russian Defense Ministry denied that it had carried out an attack anywhere inside Kyiv, insisting that Ukrainian and foreign air defense systems had caused the damage.
“Not a single attack was carried out on targets in the city of Kyiv,” he said.
“Crime against humanity”
The Kremlin said Ukraine was ultimately responsible for the consequences of the attacks and could end them by acquiescing to Moscow’s demands.
Ukraine “has every opportunity to stabilize the situation, meet Russia’s demands and, as a result, end all possible suffering of civilians,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia’s policy of destroying power infrastructure would not weaken his country’s determination to retake areas occupied by Moscow.
“We have to return to all countries. . . because I believe that the battlefield is the way when there is no diplomacy,” Zelenskyy told the Financial Times.
On Wednesday, Zelenskyy called the Russian attacks a “crime against humanity” in a tweet to the UN.
Speaking to Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, a Kyiv resident echoed Zelenskyy’s sentiments.
“I don’t know a single person who is ready to negotiate with Russia just because of these strikes,” said Alyona Piskun.
Russian soldiers have been defeated on the battlefield. That month, they pulled out of the city of Kherson, the only regional capital they had captured, destroying key infrastructure as they retreated.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian prosecutors said Thursday that authorities had discovered nine torture sites used by Russia in Kherson as well as “bodies of 432 killed civilians.”