Ukraine’s energy supply pounded as Russia steps up attacks on eastern regions
Russian missiles and shells hit Ukrainian positions in several regions and there was no relief in heavy fighting in Donetsk in the east, the Ukrainian military said on Thursday night as Moscow’s occupying forces appeared more active.
Ukraine’s energy infrastructure was under persistent attack by Russian missiles and drones from the capital Kyiv in the north to Dnipro in central Ukraine and Odesa in the south, the military said in a statement.
Ukrainian forces in the past 24 hours had downed two cruise missiles, five air-launched missiles and five Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones, it said. Reuters was not able to verify battlefield reports.
As the winter’s first snow fell in Kyiv, authorities said they were working to restore power nationwide after Russia earlier this week unleashed what Ukraine said was the heaviest bombardment of civilian infrastructure of the nearly nine-month war.
The Current18:56Russia’s continued aggression as winter creeps closer
About 10 million people were without power, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a Thursday evening video address. Authorities in some places ordered forced emergency blackouts, he said.
Ukraine typically experiences long, cold winters with mean temperatures several degrees below zero Celsius and lows down to – 20. A UN agency said a serious humanitarian crisis loomed, with millions facing “constant power cuts” this winter.
Meanwhile, a Dutch court convicted two Russian men and a Ukrainian man in absentia of murder for their role in the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014. Russian-backed forces and the Ukraine military have been fighting in eastern provinces since 2014, the same year Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
“Punishment for all Russian atrocities — both present and past — will be unavoidable,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter in response to the decision.
Moscow called the ruling “scandalous.”
Dashcam captures explosions
Zelenskyy posted video footage, apparently shot from a car camera, showing a driver’s journey through Dnipro being interrupted by a huge blast ahead that sent flames and black smoke pouring into the sky.
At least 15 people were wounded in Dnipro, three were hurt in the northeastern city of Kharkiv and at least one was injured in Odesa, officials said. Ukrainian officials also reported fierce fighting in parts of Eastern Ukraine.
State energy company Naftogaz said gas production facilities in East Ukraine had been damaged or destroyed. Other sites struck included the huge Pivdenmash defence plant in Dnipro.
The United Nations’ humanitarian office (OCHA) warned of a serious humanitarian crisis in Ukraine this winter, with millions facing “constant power cuts.”
Meanwhile, NATO and Poland concluded that a missile that crashed in Poland on Tuesday, killing two people, was probably a stray fired by Ukraine’s air defences and not Russian. Zelenskyy contested this view in a rare public disagreement with his Western allies.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said the missile, the war’s first deadly extension into NATO territory, appeared to be a Soviet-made S-300 rocket most likely fired accidentally “by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defence,” not by Russia. Russia and Ukraine both use the missile.
An adviser to Duda said Ukraine was likely to get access to the site of the blast that it has requested.
U.S. President Joe Biden disputed Zelenskyy’s assertion that the missile was not Ukrainian, telling reporters at the White House on Thursday: “That’s not the evidence.”
Moscow had denied responsibility, and Russia’s Foreign Ministry said accusations of Russian involvement in the missile were “part of a systematic anti-Russian campaign by the West.”
Ukraine alleges torture
Officials reported heavy fighting in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which Russia claims to have annexed along with the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions after holding what it called referendums condemned as a sham by Kyiv and the West.
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in the Russian-controlled part of Zaporizhzhia, said a Ukrainian missile struck a village there, killing two people and wounding nine.
Moscow’s forces retreated from the southern city of Kherson last week after a Ukrainian counteroffensive. It was the only regional capital Russia had captured since its Feb. 24 invasion, and the pullback was the third major Russian retreat of the war.
Ukrainian and Russian gunners on Thursday traded shellfire across the Dnipro River that bisects the Kherson region, the thumps echoing as a freezing rain drenched the city.
Investigators in recaptured territory in the area uncovered 63 bodies bearing signs of torture after Russian forces left, Ukraine’s interior minister was quoted as saying on Thursday.
Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted the minister, Denys Monastyrsky, as telling national television: “The search has only just started, so many more dungeons and burial places will be uncovered.”
Russia denies its troops target civilians or have committed atrocities. Mass burial sites have been found in other parts previously occupied by Russian troops, including some with civilian bodies showing signs of torture.
Grain deal extended
Meanwhile, a deal aimed at easing global food shortages by facilitating Ukraine’s agricultural exports from its southern Black Sea ports was extended for 120 days on Thursday. Ukraine had asked for a one-year extension.
The agreement, initially reached in July, created a protected sea transit corridor and was designed to alleviate global food shortages by allowing exports to resume from three ports in Ukraine, a major producer of grains and oilseeds.
I welcome the agreement by all parties to continue the Black Sea Grain Initiative to facilitate the safe navigation of export of grain, foodstuffs and fertilizers from Ukraine.<br><br>The initiative demonstrates the importance of discreet diplomacy in finding multilateral solutions.
Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the UN was also “fully committed to removing the remaining obstacles to exporting food and fertilizers from the Russian Federation” — a part of the deal Moscow sees as critical.
A drop in shipments from Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in February has played a role in this year’s global food price crisis, but there have also been other important drivers including the COVID-19 pandemic and continued climate shocks such as droughts in both Argentina and the United States.