Ukraine is struggling to reconnect water and electricity services to millions of people after a barrage of Russian missiles and drones hit energy infrastructure on Wednesday, leaving nearly 80 percent of the country in darkness.
By Thursday evening, 24 hours after Russian strikes devastated areas of Kyiv, the city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said 60 percent of homes were still under emergency shutdown. With temperatures dropping below zero, Kyiv officials said they were able to restore water services but were still working to get the lights on and the heat back on.
“There is a strong impression that the Russians are waging war on civilian infrastructure,” Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland said in a statement Thursday.
“The civilian population cannot survive an entire winter without electricity, heat and running water. And this is now the breaking point,” he said, referring to the ongoing attacks on Moscow’s power grid.
The energy system in Ukraine is on the brink of collapse and millions of people have been hit by emergency blackouts in recent weeks as Russia attacks power facilities in an apparent attempt to force a surrender after a nine-month war, most of which its forces have failed to do. Stated regional objectives.
Seen from space, Ukraine has turned into a dark patch across the globe overnight, satellite images released by NASA have shown.
The World Health Organization warned of “deadly” consequences and estimated that millions of people could flee their homes as a result, but the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Russian President Vladimir Putin “clearly has winter weapons”. To inflict immense suffering on the Ukrainian people.
The Russian president “will try to freeze the country into submission,” he said Wednesday.
Russia denies the attack
Wednesday’s attack disconnected three Ukrainian nuclear plants from the national grid and triggered blackouts in neighboring Moldova, where the energy grid is connected to Ukraine. Power was fully restored in former Soviet Moldova on Thursday.
Ukraine’s Energy Ministry said all three nuclear facilities were reconnected Thursday morning.
Ihor Terekhov, the mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city near the Russian border, said water was being restored to homes.
“We have restarted power supplies. Believe me, it was very difficult,” he said.
But there were still disruptions across the country and the central bank warned that outages could disrupt bank operations.
At least four people were killed in a fresh round of attacks on Thursday in the southern city of Kherson, recently captured by Ukraine, a senior official there said.
Ukraine accused Russian forces of firing about 70 cruise missiles and drones, which killed 10 people and wounded about 50 on Wednesday.
But Russia’s Defense Ministry denied the strikes hit anywhere inside Kyiv, insisting that Ukrainian and foreign air defense systems had caused the damage.
“Not a single strike was carried out against targets inside the city of Kyiv,” it 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 settle the situation, meet Russia’s demands and, as a result, end all possible suffering of the civilian population,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
But Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia’s strategy of destroying energy infrastructure would not undermine his country’s determination to recapture territories occupied by Moscow.
“We must return all the land … because I believe that the battlefield is the way out when there is no diplomacy,” Zelensky told the Financial Times.
On Wednesday, Zelensky called the Russian attack a “crime against humanity” in a video address to the UN Security Council.
The Kyiv resident, speaking to Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, echoed Zelensky’s sentiments.
“I don’t know anyone who is ready to negotiate with the Russians because of these strikes,” Aliona Piskun said.
Russian forces have suffered a series of defeats on the battlefield. This month they withdrew from the city of Kherson, the only regional capital they captured, destroying key infrastructure as they retreated.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian prosecutors said on Thursday that authorities had discovered nine torture sites used by the Russians in Kherson and found “the bodies of 432 civilians”.