Ukrainians brace for bleak winter as Russian attacks cripple power capacity

  • Ukrainians prepare for winter with little or no heating
  • Temperatures in several areas already below zero
  • Kherson residents can express interest in moving to another location
  • Ukraine’s security service raids famous Kyiv monastery

KYIV, Nov 22 (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called on Ukrainians to conserve energy amid relentless Russian attacks that have already halved the country’s energy capacity, while the United Nations health body The United Nations warned of a humanitarian disaster in Ukraine this winter.

Officials said millions of Ukrainians, including in the capital Kyiv, could face power cuts until at least the end of March due to the strikes. Citizens of the recently liberated southern city of Kherson can apply to be relocated to areas where heating and security problems are less acute, they said.

Temperatures have been unusually mild this fall, but they are starting to dip below freezing and are expected to drop to -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) or even lower in some areas during the winter months.

Russia has been targeting Ukraine’s power facilities with rocket attacks after a series of battlefield setbacks that included withdrawing its forces from the city of Kherson on the east bank of the mighty Dnipro river that bisects the country.

“The systematic damage to our energy system from the attacks by Russian terrorists is so considerable that all of our people and businesses need to be aware and redistribute their consumption throughout the day,” Zelenskiy said in his late-night video speech.

“Try to limit your personal electricity use.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) said hundreds of hospitals and health centers lacked fuel, water and electricity to meet people’s basic needs.

“Ukraine’s health system is facing its darkest days in the war so far. Having endured more than 700 attacks, it is now also a victim of the energy crisis,” said Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, in a statement after visiting Ukraine. .

BLANKETS

Workers were rushing to repair damaged power infrastructure, Sergey Kovalenko, head of YASNO, which provides power to Kyiv, said on Monday.

“Stock up warm clothes, blankets, think about options that will help you get through a long blackout,” Kovalenko said. “It’s 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 Iryna Vereshchuk posted several ways residents can express their interest in leaving.

“They can be evacuated during the winter period to safer regions of the country,” he wrote, citing security and infrastructure problems.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia’s blackouts and attacks on energy infrastructure were the result of Kyiv’s unwillingness to negotiate, state news agency TASS reported late last week.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia was shelling Kherson from across the Dnipro river now that its troops had fled.

“There is no military logic – they just want revenge on the locals,” he tweeted Monday night.

Ukraine’s Suspilne news agency reported new explosions in the city of Kherson on Tuesday morning.

Moscow denies intentionally 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 unprovoked war of aggression.

The nine-month war has killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions and battered the world economy, driving up food and energy prices. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said on Tuesday the world’s worst energy crisis since the 1970s would trigger a sharp slowdown, with Europe hardest hit.

ASSAULT ON THE MONASTERY

Ukraine’s SBU security service and police raided a 1,000-year-old Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv early Tuesday as part of operations to counter alleged “subversive activities of Russian special services,” the SBU said.

The sprawling Kyiv Pechersk Lavra complex, or Monastery of the Caves, is a Ukrainian cultural treasure and the headquarters of the Russian-backed wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Russian Orthodox Church condemned the raid as an “act of intimidation”.

Battles continued in the east, where Russia sent some of the forces it moved from around Kherson in the south, pressing an offensive of its own along a stretch of the front line west of the city of Donetsk held by its representatives since 2014.

“The enemy does not stop shelling the positions of our troops and settlements near the contact line (in the Donetsk region),” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Tuesday.

“Attacks continue to damage critical infrastructure and civilian homes.”

Four people were killed and four others injured in Ukrainian-controlled areas of the Donetsk region in the past 24 hours, regional governor Pavlo Kyryleno said on the Telegram messaging app.

Russian shelling also hit a humanitarian aid distribution center in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Orihiv on Tuesday, killing a volunteer and wounding two women, the regional governor said.

Orihiv lies about 110 km (70 miles) east of the Zaporizhizhia nuclear power plant, which has been bombed again in recent days, with Russia and Ukraine trading blame for the blasts.

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) toured the site on Monday. The agency, which has repeatedly called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the area to prevent a major disaster, said experts found widespread damage but nothing to compromise essential plant systems.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that no substantive progress had been made towards creating a security zone around the nuclear plant, the largest in Europe.

Reporting by Oleksandr Kozhukhar and Maria Starkova in Kyiv, Lidia Kelly in Melbourne, and Ronald Popeski in Winnipeg; Written by Shri Navaratnam and Gareth Jones; Edited by Lincoln Feast and Alex Richardson

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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