Ukraine has warned of an emerging “critical” risk to its power grid after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that repeated Russian bombardments had destroyed one-third of the country’s power facilities as winter approaches.
The warning on Tuesday came as Russian forces claimed to have retaken territory from Ukrainian troops in the eastern Kharkiv region, Moscow’s first announced capture of a village there since being nearly entirely pushed out of the region last month.
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At the same time, Russian attacks rocked energy facilities in Kyiv and urban centres across the country, causing blackouts and disrupting water supplies, one day after the capital was bombarded with a swarm of suicide drones.
“The situation is critical now across the country. It’s necessary for the whole country to prepare for electricity, water and heating outages,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, told Ukrainian television.
The attacks in the early hours of Tuesday hit Kyiv, Kharkiv in the east, Mykolaiv in the south and central regions of Dnipro and Zhytomyr, where officials said hospitals were running on backup generators.
Zelenskyy called the repeated targeting of energy infrastructure “another kind of Russian terrorist attacks”.
“Since October 10, 30 percent of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts across the country,” the Ukrainian leader said on Twitter.
Many towns and cities in the Zhytomyr region, west of Kyiv, and parts of the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine were without electricity, while power was restored to the southern city of Mykolaiv after attacks overnight.
“Now the city is cut off from electricity and water supplies. Hospitals are working on backup power,” the mayor of Zhytomyr, Sergiy Sukhomlyn, said in a statement online.
The national emergency services said that after 10 days of attacks on energy facilities, some 1,162 towns and villages in nine regions had been left without power and more than 70 people were killed and 290 injured.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said three people had been killed in Tuesday’s attacks.
Zelenskyy earlier said the new wave of nationwide attacks – which he said had damaged a residential building and flower market in Mykolaiv – was a Russian attempt to “terrorise and kill civilians.”
Rare Russian victory
Russia announced a rare battlefield victory Tuesday, in the eastern Kharkiv region, saying its forces had captured the village of Gorobiivka.
It was the first claim of victory since Ukrainian forces in September reclaimed huge swaths of the east in a string of embarrassing battlefield defeats.
Moscow’s forces have also been pushing towards Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region.
However, the new commander of Russian forces in Ukraine acknowledged on Tuesday that his troops were under broad pressure and faced hard choices, as the Russian-appointed governor of occupied Kherson province announced a partial evacuation.
“The situation in the area of the ‘Special Military Operation’ can be described as tense,” Sergei Surovikin, an air force general named this month to command Russia’s invasion forces, told the state-owned Rossiya 24 television news channel.
“The enemy continually attempts to attack the positions of Russian troops,” he said. “First of all, this concerns the Kupiansk, Lyman and Mykolaiv-Kryvyi Rih sectors.”
Kupiansk and Lyman are in eastern Ukraine, while the area between Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih is essentially the northern part of Kherson province in southern Ukraine.
Russian forces in Kherson have been driven back by 20-30km (13-20 miles) in the last few weeks and are at risk of being pinned against the right or western bank of the Dnieper River.
Surovikin appeared to acknowledge there was now a danger of Ukrainian forces advancing towards the city of Kherson, which lies near the mouth of the Dnieper on the west bank, and is hard for Russia to resupply from the east because the main bridge across the river has been badly damaged by Ukrainian bombing.
“Our further plans and actions regarding the city of Kherson itself will depend on the emerging military-tactical situation. I repeat – it is already very difficult today,” Surovikin said.
Shortly after Surovikin’s comments were aired, the Russian-appointed governor of Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, announced an “organised, gradual displacement” of civilians from four towns on the right bank.
Separately on Tuesday, Russian investigators said initial indications suggest that the crash of a military plane into a residential building near Ukraine was due to a technical malfunction.
Investigators said they were questioning the pilots of the Sukhoi Su-34, who managed to parachute out of the plane before it crashed on Monday evening into the nine-storey building, engulfing it in flames.
The death toll from the crash rose to 15 on Tuesday, including three people who died when they jumped from the apartment block, authorities said.