- 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.
The Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities follow 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.
“Saving electricity remains very important,” Prime Minister Dennis Shmyhal said in a Telegram on Tuesday.
He said planned power outages are occurring in all regions, and emergency shutdown is possible in some situations as frost has begun and electricity consumption is rising.
“The systemic damage to our energy system from the strikes of Russian terrorists is so great that all our people and companies have to be careful and redistribute their consumption throughout the day,” Zelensky said in a 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 said hundreds of Ukrainian hospitals and healthcare facilities lack fuel, water and electricity.
“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.
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 attacking 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 battered the global economy. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said the world’s worst energy crisis since the 1970s would lead to a sharp slowdown, with Europe hardest hit.
Battles continue to rage in the east, with Russia waging an offensive along the front line west of the city of Donetsk that has been controlled by its proxies since 2014.
“The attacks continue to damage vital infrastructure and civilian homes,” the Ukrainian General Staff said.
Four people have been killed and four 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 Oryhiv in southeastern Ukraine on Tuesday, killing a volunteer and wounding two women.
Oryhiv is located about 110 kilometers east of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which has been bombed again in the past few days, while Russia and Ukraine have exchanged responsibility for the bombings.
And in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, Russian air defenses were activated and two drones were shot down over the city of Sevastopol on Tuesday, the region’s governor said, urging people to remain calm.
Sevastopol is the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
Help and raid
Meanwhile, Ukrainian 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.
In Washington, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the disbursement of $4.5 billion in US economic aid to Ukraine will begin in the coming weeks in order to enhance economic stability and support basic government services.
Ukraine’s State Security Service said the 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 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”.
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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