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

  • Ukrainians with little or no heat after bombings
  • Temperatures in many areas are already below freezing
  • Residents of Kherson are offered to evacuate to safer regions
  • The security service of Ukraine raids the famous Kyiv monastery

KYIV, Nov 22 (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appealed to Ukrainians to conserve energy amid relentless Russian strikes that have halved the country’s power capacity, 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 at least until the end of March because of the missile attacks, which Ukraine’s national grid operator Ukrenergo said had caused “huge” damage.

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

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

“Saving electricity remains critical,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Telegram on Tuesday.

Planned power shutdowns are occurring in all regions, and emergency shutdowns are possible in some situations as frost has set in and electricity use is increasing, he said.

“The systematic damage to our energy system from strikes by Russian terrorists is so significant that all our people and businesses should be considerate and redistribute their use throughout the day,” Zelenskiy said in a nightly video address.

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Ukrenergo chief Volodymyr Kudrytskyi said on Tuesday that almost no thermal or hydroelectric stations had been left unscathed, although he dismissed the need to evacuate civilians.

“We cannot produce as much energy as consumers can use,” Kudrytskyi told a briefing, adding that temperatures are expected to rise again after a short cold spell on Wednesday, providing an opportunity to stabilize the power generation system.

‘DARKEST DAYS’

The World Health Organization (WHO) said hundreds of Ukrainian hospitals and healthcare facilities are short of fuel, water and electricity.

“Ukraine’s health system is facing its darkest days in 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 on after visiting Ukraine.

Workers are racing to repair damaged power infrastructure, according to Sergey Kovalenko, head of YASNO, which provides energy for Kyiv.

“Stock up on warm clothes, blankets, think about options that will help you get through a long period,” 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 Iryna Vereshchuk posted a number of ways residents can express interest in leaving.

“You can be moved for the winter to safer regions of the country,” he wrote.

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

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

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

Moscow denies deliberately attacking 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 imperialist land grab in the neighboring state it once dominated in the former Soviet Union.

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

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

RAID ON MOUNTAINS

In Washington, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the payment of $4.5 billion in US economic aid for Ukraine would begin in the coming weeks in order to boost economic stability and support core government services.

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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 stop suspected “subversive activities by Russian special services”, the SBU said.

Kyiv’s sprawling 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 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 is pressing an offensive along a stretch of frontline 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 were killed and four injured in Ukrainian-held areas of the Donetsk region over the past 24 hours, regional governor Pavlo Kyryleno said on the Telegram messaging app.

A Russian shell also hit a humanitarian aid distribution center in Orihiv in southeastern Ukraine on Tuesday, killing a volunteer and wounding two women, the regional governor said.

Orihiv is about 110 km (70 miles) east of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant which has been shelled again in recent days, with Russia and Ukraine trading blame for the explosions.

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; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Alex Richardson and Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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