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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensk. Picture: UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/REUTERS
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensk. Picture: UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/REUTERS

Kyiv — President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Ukrainians to conserve energy amid relentless Russian strikes that have halved the country’s power capacity, as the UN’s health body warned of a humanitarian disaster in Ukraine this winter.

Officials said millions of Ukrainians, including in the capital Kyiv, may have power cuts at least until the end of March due to the strikes. People in the  liberated southern city of Kherson may ask to be moved to areas with less severe heating and security problems, they said.

This autumn was unusually mild, but temperatures are starting to dip below zero and expected to fall to -20ºC or lower in some areas in winter.

Russia has been attacking Ukrainian power facilities with rockets after  battlefield setbacks that included pulling its forces from Kherson city to the east bank of the mighty Dnipro River that bisects the country.

“Systematic damage to our energy system from strikes by the Russian terrorists is so considerable that all our people and businesses should be mindful and redistribute their consumption throughout the day,” Zelensky said in his nightly address.

“Try to limit your personal consumption of electricity.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said hundreds of hospitals and health-care facilities lacked fuel, water and electricity to meet basic needs.

“Ukraine’s health system is facing its darkest days in the war so far. Having endured more than 700 attacks, it is now also a victim of the energy crisis,”  WHO European regional director Hans Kluge said after visiting Ukraine.


Workers were racing to repair damaged power infrastructure, Sergey Kovalenko head of YASNO, which provides energy for Kyiv, said on Monday.

“Stock up on warm clothes, blankets. Think about options that will help you get through a long outage,” Kovalenko said. “It’s better to do it now than to be miserable.”

In a Telegram message for Kherson residents — especially women with children and old, ill or disabled people — Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk posted suggestions on how people can express interest in leaving.

“You can be evacuated for the winter period to safer regions of the country,” she wrote, citing security and infrastructure problems.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said blackouts and Russia’s strikes on energy infrastructure were the consequences of Kyiv being unwilling to negotiate, the state TASS news agency reported late last week.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia was bombarding Kherson from across the Dnipro River, now that its troops had fled. “There is no military logic. They just want to take revenge on the locals,” he tweeted this week.

Ukraine’s Suspilne news agency reported more explosions in Kherson city on Tuesday morning.

Moscow denies targeting civilians in its “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities.

Kyiv and the West describe Russia’s actions as an unprovoked war of aggression.

The nine-month war has killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions and pummelled the global economy, driving up food and energy prices. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Tuesday the world’s worst energy crisis since the 1970s would trigger a sharp slowdown, with Europe hit hardest.

Raid on monastery

Ukraine’s SBU security service and police raided a 1,000-year-old Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv early on Tuesday as part of operations to counter suspected “subversive activities by Russian special services”, the SBU said.

The sprawling Kyiv Pechersk Lavra complex — or Monastery of the Caves — is a Ukrainian cultural treasure and headquarters of the Russian-backed wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that falls under the Moscow Patriarchate.

Russia’s Orthodox Church condemned the raid as an “act of intimidation”.

Battles still rage in the east, where Russia has sent some of the forces it moved from around Kherson in the south, pressing an offensive along a stretch of front line west of the city of Donetsk held by its proxies since 2014.

“The enemy does not stop shelling the positions of our troops and settlements near the contact line (in the Donetsk region),” the general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Tuesday.

“Attacks continue to damage critical infrastructure and civilian homes.”

Four people were killed and four wounded in Ukraine-controlled parts of Donetsk region over the past 24 hours, regional governor Pavlo Kyryleno said on Telegram messaging app.

Russia shelled a humanitarian aid distribution centre in the town of Orihiv in southeastern Ukraine on Tuesday, killing a volunteer and wounding two women, said the regional governor.

Orihiv is about 110km east of the Zaporizhizhia nuclear power station, which was shelled again in the past few days, with Russia and Ukraine trading blame for the blasts.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts toured the site on Monday. The agency, which has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities to avoid a major disaster, said they found widespread damage but nothing that compromised the plant’s essential systems.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that no substantive progress was made in  creating a security zone around the nuclear plant, Europe’s largest.


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