- Ukrainians with little or no warming up after the bombing
- Temperatures in several areas are already below freezing
- Kherson residents receive an offer to evacuate to safer areas
- Ukrainian security forces raid the famous Kyiv Monastery
Kyiv (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with Ukrainians to conserve energy amid relentless Russian strikes that have halved the country’s electricity capacity, as the United Nations health agency warns of a humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine this winter.
Authorities said millions of Ukrainians, including the capital Kyiv, could face power outages at least until the end of March due to the missile attacks, which Ukraine’s national grid operator Okringo said caused “enormous” damage.
Temperatures have been unusually mild in Ukraine this fall, but they are starting to dip below zero and are expected to drop to -20C (-4F) or even lower in some areas during the winter months.
Russia’s targeting of Ukrainian energy facilities follows a series of field setbacks that included the withdrawal of Russian forces from the southern city of Kherson to the eastern bank of the mighty Dnipro River that divides the country.
“The systemic damage to our energy system from the strikes of Russian terrorists is so great that all our people and companies must pay attention and redistribute their consumption throughout the day,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address.
Okrinego’s president, Volodymyr Kudritsky, said on Tuesday that no thermal or hydroelectric plants were left intact, though he dismissed the need for civilian evacuations.
“We can’t generate as much energy as consumers can use,” Kudritsky told a news briefing, adding that after a short cold snap on Wednesday temperatures are expected to rise again, providing an opportunity to stabilize the power generation system.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that hundreds of Ukrainian hospitals and healthcare facilities lack fuel, water and electricity to meet people’s basic needs.
“Ukraine’s health system is facing its darkest day in the war so far. Having suffered more than 700 attacks, it is now a victim of the energy crisis,” Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said in a statement after visiting Ukraine. .
Workers are racing to repair damaged energy infrastructure, according to Sergei Kovalenko, head of YASNO, which supplies power to Kiev.
“Stock up on warm clothes and blankets, and think about options that will help you get through a long break,” Kovalenko said. “Better to do it now than to be miserable.”
In a Telegram message to Kherson residents – especially the elderly, women with children and the sick or disabled – Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshuk published a number of ways residents can express their interest in leaving.
“You can be evacuated in winter to safer parts of the country,” she wrote.
State news agency TASS quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying last week that Russia’s strikes on energy infrastructure were the result of Kyiv’s unwillingness to negotiate.
An adviser to Ukrainian President Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia was shelling Kherson across the Dnipro River now that its forces had fled. “There is no military logic: they just want revenge on the local population,” he wrote on Twitter late Monday.
Ukraine’s Suspilne news agency reported new explosions in the city of Kherson on Tuesday.
Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians in what it calls a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities.
Kyiv and the West describe Russia’s actions as an unjustified imperial grab of land in the once-dominated neighboring country within the former Soviet Union.
The nine-month war has killed tens of thousands, displaced millions and devastated the global economy, sending food and energy prices soaring. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said on Tuesday that the world’s worst energy crisis since the 1970s will lead to a sharp slowdown, with Europe hardest hit.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said that on Tuesday, Ukraine received a new batch of 2.5 billion euros ($2.57 billion) in financial support from the European Union.
Ukraine’s security service and police raided a 1,000-year-old Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv early on Tuesday as part of operations to counter “suspected subversive activities of Russian special services,” the State Security Service of Ukraine said.
The sprawling Kiev-Pechersk Lavra complex – or Monastery of the Caves – is a Ukrainian cultural treasure and the seat of the Russian-backed wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate.
The Russian Orthodox Church condemned the raid, describing it as an “act of intimidation”.
Battles have continued to rage in the east, with Russia sending in some forces it has relocated from around Kherson in the south, and launching an offensive of its own along a stretch of the front line west of the city of Donetsk that has been controlled by its proxies since 2014.
“The enemy does not stop bombing the positions of our forces and our settlements near the line of contact (in the Donetsk region),” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Tuesday.
Attacks continue to destroy critical infrastructure and civilian homes.
Four people have been killed and four others injured in Ukrainian-controlled areas of the Donetsk region over the past 24 hours, said the region’s governor, Pavlo Kirilino, on the messaging app Telegram.
The region’s governor said Russian shelling also hit a humanitarian aid distribution center in the southeastern Ukrainian town of Oryhiv on Tuesday, killing a volunteer and wounding two women.
Oryhiv is located 110 kilometers (70 miles) east of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, which has been bombed again in the past few days, while Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the bombings.
Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency toured the site on Monday. The agency, which has repeatedly called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the area to avert a major catastrophe, said experts found widespread damage but nothing damaging the station’s primary systems.
The Kremlin said on Tuesday that no substantial progress had been made toward creating a security zone around the nuclear reactor complex, the largest in Europe.
Additional reporting by Oleksandr Kozukhar and Maria Starkova in Kyiv, Lydia Kelly in Melbourne, and Ronald Popisky in Winnipeg; Writing by Shri Navaratnam and Gareth Jones; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Alex Richardson, and Mark Heinrich
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