- Thirty percent of the Ukrainian force is still out
- The European Union pledges to help Ukraine overcome energy shortages
- Germany recognizes the Soviet-era famine as genocide
Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukrainian authorities on Friday gradually restored electricity with the help of reconnecting the country’s four nuclear plants, but millions of people were kept in the dark after Russia’s most devastating air strikes of the war.
President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Ukrainians to use energy sparingly. “If there is electricity, this does not mean that you can run several powerful electrical appliances at once,” he said in an evening video address.
He said six million people were still without electricity, half the number in the aftermath of the Russian attack on Wednesday. The attacks caused the worst damage yet in the conflict, leaving millions of people without light, water or heat even as temperatures plunged below freezing.
The national power grid operator Ukrenergo said several hours ago that 30% of the electricity supply was still cut, and asked people to cut back on their energy use. “Repair crews are working around the clock,” she said in a statement on Telegram.
Zelensky went to the town of Vyshhorod, just north of Kyiv, on Friday to look at a four-story building damaged by a Russian missile. He also visited one of the many emergency centers set up to provide heating, water, electricity and mobile communications.
“Together we will be able to walk this difficult path for our country. We will overcome all challenges and we will surely prevail,” he said in an earlier video statement.
Moscow says attacks on critical infrastructure are militarily legitimate and that Kyiv can end the suffering of its people if it responds to Russian demands. Ukraine says attacks aimed at causing civilian misery are a war crime.
The President of the European Commission said that the European Union will intensify its efforts to provide Ukraine with support to restore and maintain electricity and heating.
Russia insists it is not targeting civilians in its “special military operation” in late February. International human rights officials say attacks on civilian infrastructure are difficult to reconcile.
“Millions are drowning in severe hardship and appalling living conditions,” UN Human Rights Coordinator Volker Türk said in a statement.
Moscow says it has launched its operation in Ukraine to protect Russian speakers in what President Vladimir Putin has called an artificial state carved out of Russian territory.
“Russia is first and foremost about the people, their culture, their traditions and their history, which is passed on from generation to generation and absorbs the mother’s milk,” he said during a televised interview with the soldiers’ mothers.
Putin said he shared the women’s pain, telling them that “the main guarantee of our success is our unity.”
Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they say is a war of conquest.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has visited Ukraine and pledged millions of pounds for further support, the office of British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Friday. Astute, who met Zelensky on the trip, condemned Russia for its “brutal attacks” on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure.
Hungarian news website Index.hu reported on Friday that Hungarian President Katalin Novak was heading to Kyiv to meet Zelensky.
Kyiv says Russia has repeatedly bombed the city of Kherson, in southern Ukraine, which it abandoned earlier this month. The head of the local administration said on Friday that 15 people had been killed and 35 wounded in the past six days.
Although the European Union is developing more sanctions to impose on Russia, the 27-nation bloc is divided over a G7 proposal to curb Russia’s seaborne oil prices. EU diplomats said a meeting to discuss the idea scheduled for Friday had been cancelled.
Reconnection of nuclear plants
The International Atomic Energy Agency said the three nuclear plants in territory controlled by Ukraine were brought back online two days after the attacks forced them to shut down for the first time in 40 years.
The fourth station, in Zaporizhia, is located in Russian-controlled territory. It is back online on Thursday.
Kyiv says the war reflects what it sees as malice towards Ukrainians, dating back to Soviet and imperial times.
This week, Ukrainians will mark the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor famine.
In November 1932, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin sent the police to confiscate all grain and livestock from the new collective farms, including the seeds needed to grow the next crop.
Millions of Ukrainian peasants starved to death in the following months from what Yale historian Timothy Snyder called “clearly premeditated mass murder”.
Germany’s parliament is expected to vote overwhelmingly to recognize it as genocide, following similar steps this week by Romania, Moldova and Ireland.
Russia rejects accusations that the deaths were caused by a deliberate genocidal policy, saying that Russians and other ethnic groups also suffered because of the famine.
(Reporting by Pavel Politik and Tom Palmforth) Additional reporting by Stefania Bern and David Leungren, Reuters offices. Written by Peter Graf. Editing by Cynthia Osterman
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