Bleak winter looms as Russian strikes cripple Ukraine’s power capacity

  • Ukrainians with little or no heating after the bombing
  • Temperatures in several areas are already below zero
  • Residents of Kherson receive an offer to evacuate to safer regions
  • The Ukrainian security service raided the famous Kyiv monastery

KYIV, Nov 22 (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Ukrainians to conserve energy amid relentless Russian attacks that have cut the country’s power capacity in half, as the United Nations health body warned of a humanitarian disaster in Ukraine this winter.

Authorities said millions of Ukrainians, including in the capital Kyiv, could face power cuts until at least the end of March due to the rocket attacks, which Ukraine’s national grid operator Ukrenergo said caused “colossal” damage.

Temperatures have been unseasonably mild in Ukraine this autumn, but are starting to dip below freezing and are expected to drop to -20C (-4C) or even lower in some areas during the winter months.

Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities follow a series of battlefield setbacks that have included the withdrawal of Russian forces from the southern city of Kherson to the east bank of the mighty Dnieper river that bisects the country.

“Saving electricity remains critically important,” Prime Minister Denis Schmihal said on Telegram on Tuesday.

Planned power outages are happening in all regions, and in some situations emergency power outages are possible because frosts have started and electricity consumption is increasing, he said.

“The systemic damage to our energy system from the Russian terrorist attacks is so significant that all our people and businesses need to be careful and redistribute their consumption throughout the day,” Zelensky said in a video address overnight.

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Ukrenergo chief Volodymyr Kudritsky said on Tuesday that virtually no thermal or hydroelectric plants were left unscathed, although he dismissed the need to evacuate civilians.

“We cannot generate as much power as consumers can use,” Kudritsky told a briefing, adding that after a brief cold wave on Wednesday, temperatures are expected to rise again, giving an opportunity to stabilize the electricity generation system.

“DARKEST DAYS”

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that hundreds of Ukrainian hospitals and health facilities lack fuel, water and electricity.

“Ukraine’s healthcare system is facing the darkest days of the war so far. Having suffered 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 a visit to Ukraine. .

Workers are racing to repair the damaged power infrastructure, according to Sergey Kovalenko, head of JASNO, which supplies power to Kyiv.

“Gather warm clothes, blankets, think about options that will help you get through the long outage,” Kovalenko said.

In a Telegram message to Kherson residents – especially the elderly, women with children and those who are sick or disabled – Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk announced a number of ways residents can express interest in leaving.

“For the winter period you can be evacuated to safer regions of the country,” she wrote.

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Russian strikes on energy infrastructure are a result of Kyiv’s unwillingness to negotiate, state news agency TASS quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying last week.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia is bombing Kherson from across the Dnipro River now that its troops have fled. “There is no military logic: they just want revenge on the local population,” he tweeted late Monday.

Ukrainian news agency Suspilne reported new explosions in the city of Kherson on Tuesday.

Moscow denies it deliberately targeted civilians in what it calls a “special military operation” to liberate Ukraine from nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities.

Kyiv and the West describe Russia’s actions as an unprovoked, imperialistic land grab in a neighboring state it once dominated within the former Soviet Union.

The nine-month war killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions and wrecked the global economy. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said the world’s worst energy crisis since the 1970s would cause a sharp slowdown, with Europe the hardest hit.

Meanwhile, Ukraine received a new tranche of 2.5 billion euros ($2.57 billion) in financial support from the European Union on Tuesday, Finance Minister Serhii Marchenko said.

RAID ON THE MONASTERY

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 to boost economic stability and support essential government services.

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

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The sprawling Kiev 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, which falls under the Moscow Patriarchate.

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

Fighting continued to rage in the east, where Russia has been waging an offensive along the front line west of the city of Donetsk held by its proxies since 2014.

“Attacks continue to damage critical infrastructure and civilian homes,” the Ukrainian General Staff said.

Four people have been killed and four wounded in Ukrainian-held areas of the Donetsk region in the past 24 hours, regional governor Pavlo Kirileno said on the Telegram messaging app.

Russian shelling also hit an aid distribution center in Orihiv in southeastern Ukraine on Tuesday, killing one volunteer and wounding two women, the regional governor said.

Orihiv is about 110 kilometers (70 miles) east of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, which has been shelled again in the past few days, with Russia and Ukraine exchanging blame for the explosions.

Reporting by Oleksandr Kozhuhar and Maria Starkova in Kyiv, Lydia Kelly in Melbourne and Ronald Popesky in Winnipeg; Writing by Sri Navaratnam and Gareth Jones; Editing by Lincoln Fest, Alex Richardson and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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