Ukraine is struggling to restore water and electricity to millions of people after a barrage of Russian missiles and drones hit energy infrastructure on Wednesday, leaving nearly 80 percent of the country without power.
On Thursday night, more than 24 hours after Russian airstrikes devastated neighborhoods in Kiev, the city’s mayor, Vitaly Klitschko, said 60 percent of homes were still suffering from emergency power outages. As temperatures fell below freezing, Kyiv authorities said they had managed to restore the water supply, but were still working to get the lights and heating back on.
“There is a very strong impression that the Russians are waging war against civilian infrastructure,” Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a statement on Thursday.
“Civilians cannot survive the whole winter without electricity, heat and running water.” And now it’s a tipping point,” he said, referring to Moscow’s ongoing attacks on the power grid.
Ukraine’s power system is on the brink of collapse and millions of people have experienced power outages in recent weeks as Russia has attacked power facilities in an apparent effort to force a capitulation after a nine-month war in which its forces destroyed most of them. set territorial goals.
Seen from space, Ukraine became a dark patch on the globe at night, satellite images released by NASA showed.
The World Health Organization warned of “life-threatening” consequences and estimated that millions of people could be forced from their homes, while US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “clearly arming himself for the winter. cause great suffering to the people of Ukraine.”
The Russian president “will try to freeze the country into submission,” she said on Wednesday.
Russia denies the attacks
Wednesday’s attacks disconnected three of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants from the national grid and caused power outages in neighboring Moldova, where the power grid is connected to Ukraine. Electricity was almost completely restored in the former Soviet Union’s Moldova on Thursday.
All three nuclear facilities were shut down by Thursday morning, Ukraine’s Energy Ministry said.
Ihori Terekhov, the mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city near the border with Russia, said water was being restored to homes.
“We restarted the power supplies. Believe me, it was very difficult,” he said.
But there were still disruptions across the country, with the central bank warning that outages could disrupt banking operations.
At least four people were killed in a fresh attack on Thursday in the southern city of Kherson, recently recaptured by Ukraine, a senior official said.
Ukraine has accused Russian forces of launching about 70 cruise missiles and drones in attacks that killed 10 and wounded about 50 people on Wednesday.
But Russia’s defense ministry denied striking anywhere inside Kyiv, insisting the damage was caused by Ukrainian and foreign air defense systems.
“Not a single strike was carried out against targets in the city of Kyiv,” it said.
“Crime against humanity”
The Kremlin has said that Ukraine is ultimately responsible for the consequences of the attacks and can end them by agreeing to Moscow’s demands.
Ukraine “has every opportunity to settle the situation, fulfill Russia’s demands and, as a result, end all possible suffering of the civilian population,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia’s strategy of destroying energy infrastructure would not weaken his country’s determination to retake territories occupied by Moscow.
“We have to return all the lands … because I think the battlefield is the way when there is no diplomacy,” Zelensky told the Financial Times.
Zelensky called the Russian attacks a “crime against humanity” in a video address to the UN Security Council on Wednesday.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Kyiv resident Rory Challands echoed Zelensky’s sentiments.
“I don’t know anyone who is ready to negotiate with the Russians just because of these strikes,” said Alyona Piskun.
The Russian army suffered many defeats on the battlefield. This month, they withdrew from 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 the Russians in Kherson and “the bodies of 432 murdered civilians.”