Russian missile strikes have disabled almost half of Ukraine’s energy system, the government said on Friday, and authorities in the capital Kyiv warned that the city could face a “complete shutdown” of the power grid as winter sets in.
“Unfortunately Russia continues to carry out missile strikes on Ukraine’s civilian and critical infrastructure. Almost half of our energy system is disabled,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said during a joint news conference with Valdis Dombrovskis, a vice president in the European Commission.
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Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said about 10 million people were without power in a country with a pre-war population of about 44 million. He said authorities in some areas ordered forced emergency blackouts.
Ukraine’s national grid operator Ukrenergo said Russia had launched six large-scale missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure between October 10 and November 15.
Russia has carried out significant strikes across Ukraine after a key bridge connecting the Crimea Peninsula was partially damaged in a blast in October. Moscow blamed Kyiv for the attack, a charge Ukraine denies.
With temperatures falling as low as zero degrees and Kyiv seeing its first snow, officials were working to restore power nationwide after some of the heaviest bombardment of Ukrainian civilian infrastructure in nine months of war.
The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian disaster in the country this winter due to power and water shortages.
“We are preparing for different scenarios, including a complete shutdown,” Mykola Povoroznyk, deputy head of the Kyiv city administration, said in televised comments.
Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had used long-range weapons on Thursday to strike defence and industrial facilities, including “missile manufacturing facilities”.
A spokesperson for the Ukrainian army said in an evening report that Russian forces, now redeployed on the east bank of the Dnieper River in the Kherson region, had shelled towns including Antonivka and Bilozerka on the west bank as well as Chornobaivka, which they had used as a depot for equipment.
Moscow was forced to pull out of the region’s capital city, also called Kherson, on November 9.
Investigators in liberated areas of the Kherson region have uncovered 63 bodies bearing signs of torture after the Russian forces left, Ukraine’s interior minister was quoted as saying.
The Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner, Dmytro Lubinets, released a video of what he said was a torture chamber used by Russian forces in the Kherson region.
Reuters was unable to verify the assertions made by Lubinets and others in the video. Russia denies its troops deliberately attack civilians or have committed atrocities.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what Moscow said was a special military operation to eliminate dangerous nationalists. Kyiv calls Russia’s action an unprovoked imperialist land grab.
Thousands of Russian men have fled abroad to escape conscription to a conflict which has killed thousands, displaced millions, turned cities to ruins and reopened Cold War-era divisions.