KYIV: Ukraine battled on Thursday to reconnect water and electricity services to millions cut off after Russia launched dozens of cruise missiles that struck Ukraine’s already crippled power grid.
Ukraine’s energy system is on the verge of collapse and millions of people have been subjected to emergency power cuts in recent weeks after systematic Russian bombardment of the grid.
The World Health Organization has warned of “deadly” consequences and estimated millions of people could leave their homes as a result.
As of Thursday evening, more than 24 hours after Russian strikes destroyed Kyiv, the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said 60% of homes were still suffering from emergency blackouts. Water services, however, have been fully restored, city officials said.
But the shelling left seven dead in Vyshgorod, on the outskirts of the capital, said Oleksiy Kuleba, head of Kyiv’s regional military administration.
And a new series of strikes on Thursday killed at least four people in the southern city of Kherson, recently taken over by Ukraine, a senior official said.
The latest attacks on the power grid come with winter setting in and temperatures in the capital hover just above freezing.
Ukraine has accused Russian forces of launching around 70 cruise missiles as well as drones in attacks that left 10 dead and around 50 injured.
Russian missile launches force Ukraine to shut down nuclear power plants
But the Russian Defense Ministry denied hitting targets inside Kyiv, insisting Ukrainian and foreign air defense systems had caused the damage.
“Not a single strike was carried out on targets in the city of Kyiv,” he said.
“The Scariest Day”
Moscow is targeting electrical installations in an apparent effort to force surrender after nine months of war that has seen its forces fail in most of their declared territorial objectives.
“The way they fight and target civilian infrastructure can only cause fury,” said Oleksiy Yakovlenko, chief administrator of a hospital in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk.
Despite the increasingly frequent power cuts, Yakovlenko said his resolve was unwavering.
“If they expect us to fall to our knees and crawl towards them, it won’t happen,” Yakovlenko said. AFP.
Russian troops suffered a series of battlefield defeats. This month they withdrew from the only regional capital they had captured, destroying key infrastructure as they withdrew from Kherson in the south.
On Thursday, Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of Kherson’s military administration, said Russian strikes had killed at least four people.
“The Russian invaders opened fire on a residential area with several rocket launchers. A large building caught fire,” he said on Telegram.
Ukrainian prosecutors also said on Thursday that authorities discovered a total of nine Russian-used torture sites in Kherson along with “the bodies of 432 civilians who were killed.”
Wednesday’s attacks automatically disconnected three Ukrainian nuclear power plants from the national grid and caused power outages in neighboring Moldova, where the energy grid is connected to Ukraine.
The three nuclear facilities were reconnected Thursday morning, the energy ministry said.
Power was almost entirely back in line in former Soviet Moldova, where its pro-European president Maia Sandu called a special meeting of her security council.
Igor Terekhov, the mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, near the border with Russia, said water was being restored to homes and city workers were reconnecting public transport .
“We restarted the power supplies. Believe me, it was very difficult,” he said.
But there were still disruptions across the country and even the central bank warned that the outages could disrupt banks’ operations.
The Kremlin said Ukraine was ultimately responsible for the fallout from the strikes and that Kyiv could end the strikes by acquiescing to Russian demands.
Ukraine “has every chance to resolve the situation, to meet Russia’s demands and, therefore, to put an end to all possible suffering of the civilian population”, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Moscow separately announced that it had issued tens of thousands of Russian passports to residents of four Ukrainian territories, which President Vladimir Putin claimed he annexed in September.
“More than 80,000 people have received passports as citizens of the Russian Federation,” Valentina Kazakova, head of migration at the Interior Ministry, said in remarks relayed by Russian news agencies.
In September, Russia held referendums – widely denounced as rigged by the international community – in Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. He claimed that the locals had voted in favor of becoming subjects of Russia.
Putin formally annexed the territories in a ceremony at the Kremlin later that month, though his forces never had full control over them.