The Ukrainian city of Kherson has faced multiple attacks for the second day in an escalation of shelling since Russia withdrew from the city two weeks ago following an eight-month occupation.
Ukrainian officials said Russia continued to bombard Kherson on Friday and that at least 10 people were killed in the previous day’s attacks.
Yaroslav Yanushevych, governor of the Kherson region, said on Telegram the region was shelled “54 times” on Thursday.
“The Russians targeted private and apartment buildings, a shipyard, a building on the school grounds, and gas pipes,” Yanushevych said. “The enemy also shelled the following settlements in the district: Zelenivka, Chornobayivka, and Stepanivka.”
Yanushevych added that 10 residents were killed and 54 others injured in the bombardment.
Lilia Kristenko, 38, lost her parents after a missile struck their building. “Russians took the two most precious people from me,” she told The Associated Press news agency. “They lived so well, they lived differently. But they died in one day.”
As Kherson was picking up the pieces from the continuing shelling on Friday, Ukraine gradually restored power to millions of people left in the dark after devastating Russian air attacks.
The country’s four nuclear power plants were reconnected to the national grid after completely losing off-site power earlier this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Friday.
The facilities were all disconnected from the power grid on Wednesday for the first time in Ukrainian history.
In a statement, the IAEA nuclear watchdog said Ukraine had informed it on Friday that its Rivne, South Ukraine and Khmelnytskyi plants had been reconnected. Ukraine reconnected its vast Zaporizhzhia plant on Thursday, Kyiv said earlier.
Ukrainian national power grid operator Ukrenergo said that as of 7pm local time (17:00 GMT), 30 percent of electricity supplies were still out and asked people to cut back on their energy use.
“Phased restoration of the power system is continuing. Repairs crews are working around the clock,” it said in a statement on Telegram.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy went to the town of Vyshhorod just north of Kyiv on Friday to look at a four-storey building damaged by a Russian attack. He also visited one of the many emergency centres that have been set up to provide heat, water, electricity and mobile communications.
“Together we will be able to go through this difficult path for our country. We will overcome all challenges and we will definitely win,” he said in a video statement.
Later on Friday, Zelenskyy criticised Kyiv’s mayor in a rare public spat between Ukrainian officials since the Russian invasion began.
Zelenskyy said Mayor Vitali Klitschko was doing a poor job of setting up emergency shelters for residents without power and heat.
Amid the Russian attacks, Ukraine had established thousands of so-called “invincibility centres” where people can access heat, water, internet and mobile phone links.
In an evening speech, Zelenskyy accused Klitschko and his officials of not doing enough to help.
“Unfortunately, local authorities have not performed well in all cities. In particular, there are a lot of complaints in Kyiv … To put it mildly, more work is needed,” he said, adding that the level of services available in many Kyiv centres was not good enough.
“Please pay attention – the people of Kyiv need more support … a lot of (them) have been without power for 20 or even 30 hours. We expect quality work from the mayor’s office.”
Meanwhile, Western countries continued to promise support for Ukraine.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would continue to back the country for “as long as it takes”.
Speaking to reporters ahead of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Romania next week, Stoltenberg urged allies to keep providing air defence systems and other weapons to Ukraine. NATO as an organisation does not supply weapons.
“NATO will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. We will not back down,” he said. “Allies are providing unprecedented military support, and I expect foreign ministers will also agree to step up non-lethal support.”
Later in the day, Zelenskyy said he spoke with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and discussed cooperation on ensuring Ukraine’s energy stability.
In a tweet, the Ukrainian president said he had expressed gratitude to the European Union for its aid to Kyiv and for working on a ninth sanctions package against Russia. He did not provide details.
Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, its military campaign has been mired by setbacks. In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces – backed by European and United States weaponry – recaptured large swaths of territory in a counteroffensive in the east of the country.
On Friday, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin met mothers of Russian soldiers fighting on the front line and warned them the media, including the internet, is full of “fakes”.
“Life is more difficult and diverse that what is shown on TV screens or even on the Internet. There are many fakes, cheating, lies there,” Putin said.