Ukraine is restricting electricity usage nationwide for the first time on Thursday following a barrage of Russian missile and drone attacks that have destroyed some power plants just before the cold winter months set in.
Power supply will be restricted between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., government officials and the grid operator Ukrenergo said. Street lighting in cities will be limited, a presidential aide said on the Telegram messaging app, adding that if people did not minimize electricity use, there would be temporary blackouts.
While limited to Thursday, “we do not exclude that with the onset of cold weather we will be asking for your help even more frequently,” Ukrenergo said.
Russia has intensified its missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s power and water infrastructure in recent days.
“There is new damage to critical infrastructure. Three energy facilities were destroyed by the enemy today,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his Wednesday night video address.
“We are preparing for all kinds of scenarios in view of the winter season. We assume that Russian terror will be directed at energy facilities until, with the help of partners, we are able to shoot down 100% of enemy missiles and drones,” said Zelenskiy, who earlier in the week said a third of his country’s power stations had been hit by Russian air strikes.
The mayor of the western city of Lviv said on television that it would take months to repair power substations that have been damaged.
Ukraine had so far shot down a total of 233 Iranian-made drones used by Russia, including 21 on Wednesday, Zelenskiy said.
Reuters eyewitnesses said five drones hit the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv early on Thursday, but it was unclear where they had exploded or how much damage had been done.
Ukraine accuses Russia of using Iran-made Shahed-136 “kamikaze drones”, which fly to their target and detonate. Iran denies supplying them and the Kremlin also denied using them.
Russia will reassess its cooperation with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his staff if Guterres sends experts to Ukraine to inspect downed drones that Ukraine and the West assert were made in Iran, Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy told reporters at the United Nations on Wednesday.
Kherson battle looms
In Kherson, the only regional capital Russian forces have captured since their invasion eight months ago, the Russian-appointed administration prepared an evacuation.
Images of people using boats to flee the strategic southern city were broadcast by Russian state TV, which portrayed the exodus on the Dnipro river as an attempt to evacuate civilians before it became a combat zone. About 50,000 to 60,000 people would be moved out in the next six days, said Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed chief of Kherson.
Staff at Kherson’s Russian-backed administration were also being relocated to the eastern side of the Dnipro, Saldo said, although he said Russia had the resources to hold the city and even counter-attack if necessary.
Kherson is arguably the most strategically important of four regions Russia claimed to have annexed in recent weeks. It controls both the only land route to the Crimea peninsula Russia seized in 2014, and the mouth of the Dnipro, the 2,200-kilometer-long (1,367-mile) river that bisects Ukraine.
In eastern Ukraine bordering Russia, Moscow’s forces focused their main attempts to advance on the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement on Wednesday night.
Bakhmut is the focus of Russia’s slow advance through the Donetsk region. Forces trained tank and artillery fire on at least 10 towns in the area, including Bakhmut, Soledar and Bilohorivka, the Ukrainian statement said.
Reuters was not able to verify battlefield reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded an all-Russia war effort and declared martial law on Wednesday in areas of Ukraine occupied by his forces.
A package of moves, including boosting the security powers of all of Russia’s regional governors, was the latest intensification of the war by Putin to counter a series of major defeats at the hands of Ukrainian forces since the start of September.
It was far from clear, however, how fast or how effectively the new measures might bolster Russia’s military position on the ground. The U.S. State Department said Russia was resorting to “desperate tactics”. A Ukrainian official said it would change nothing.
Meanwhile, the United States imposed new sanctions on Russia, targeting a network that Washington accused of procuring military and dual-use technologies from U.S. manufacturers and supplying them to Russian users.
Washington and its allies have imposed several rafts of sanctions targeting Moscow since the Feb. 24 invasion, including against its largest lenders and Putin himself. On Wednesday a senior U.S. Treasury Department official met officials in Turkey to discuss addressing the risks caused by sanctions evasion, the department said.
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