Ukrainians suffer in cold, darkness as the president begs the UN to punish Russia

  • Most power restored to the capital after the worst power cuts to date
  • US: Russia tries to freeze Ukraine into submission
  • Kiev aims to restore nuclear power plants by the end of Thursday
  • “We are an unbreakable people,” said President Zelensky

KYIV, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy demanded that the United Nations punish Russia for airstrikes against civilian infrastructure, after a barrage of missiles plunged cities into freezing darkness in the worst nationwide blackout to date.

With temperatures dropping below zero, authorities worked Thursday to get the lights and heating back on. Russia’s latest missile barrage killed 10 people and shut down all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants for the first time in 40 years.

Regional authorities in Kyiv said power had been restored to three-quarters of the capital by Thursday morning and water was working again in some areas. Transport in the city was up and running again and buses replaced electric trams.

Authorities hoped to restart the three nuclear power plants in Ukrainian territory by the end of the day.

About once a week since early October, Russia has launched massive airstrikes against energy targets across Ukraine, firing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of missiles each time to knock out Ukraine’s power grid.

Moscow admits attacking basic infrastructure and says the aim is to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight and force it into negotiations. Kiev says such attacks are clearly designed to harm civilians, making them a war crime.

“Today is only one day, but we have received 70 missiles. That is the Russian formula of terror. This is all against our energy infrastructure,” Zelenskiy said overnight via video link to the UN Security Council chamber. “Hospitals, schools, transportation, residential areas have all suffered.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Kiev was to blame for the Ukrainians suffering because it refused to give in to Moscow’s demands, which he failed to make clear. Ukraine says it will not stop fighting until all Russian troops have left.

“What is there to talk about? I think the first step should come from them. First of all, they should stop shooting at us,” said 27-year-old Olena Shafinska, queuing at a water pump in a park in the center of Kyiv. with a group of friends.

For the first time, the Russian attacks forced Kiev to shut down the three nuclear power plants it still controls. The fourth, on Russian territory, was also supposed to activate reserve diesel power. Nuclear officials say power cuts could disrupt cooling systems and trigger a nuclear disaster.

“There is a real danger of causing a nuclear and radiation catastrophe by shelling the entire territory of Ukraine with Russian cruise missiles and ballistic missiles,” said Petro Kotin, head of Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom.

“Russia must answer for this shameful crime.”

ARMED WINTER

Winter has arrived abruptly in Ukraine and temperatures were well below freezing in the capital, a city of three million people. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russian President Vladimir Putin “clearly weaponized winter to inflict immense suffering on the Ukrainian people”.

The Russian president “will try to freeze the country into submission,” she added.

There was no prospect of action by the Security Council, where Russia has a right of veto. Moscow’s UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said it was against council rules for Zelensky to appear via video, rejecting what he called “reckless threats and ultimatums” from Ukraine and its supporters in the West.

He blamed the damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure on the air defense missiles and said the West should stop supplying them.

Ukrainian authorities said three apartment buildings were hit on Wednesday, killing 10 people.

“Our little one slept. Two years old. She slept, she got covered. She’s alive, thank God,” said a man who gave his name as Fyodr, dragging a suitcase as he walked away from a smoldering apartment. construction hit in Kiev.

Also in the capital, performers and staff members of Kiev’s National Academic Operetta Theater bid a tearful farewell to 26-year-old ballet dancer Vadym Khlupianets who was killed fighting Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow has turned to the tactic of attacking Ukraine’s infrastructure, even as Kiev has been beating Russian forces on the battlefield since September. Russia has also declared the annexation of land it occupies and is calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists.

The first winter of the war will now test whether Ukraine can continue its campaign to retake territory, or whether the Russian commanders can keep their invasion forces supplied and find a way to halt Kiev’s momentum .

Now that Russia has withdrawn, it has a much shorter line to defend to hold the conquered country, with more than a third of the front now blocked by the Dnipro River.

“Ukraine’s capabilities will grow slowly, but a continued maneuver east of the Dnipro River and into Russian-occupied Donbas will prove much more difficult fighting,” Mark Hertling, a former commander of US ground forces in Europe, tweeted.

“Ukrainian morale will be tested with continued Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure… but Ukraine will persevere.”

Russia is launching its own offensive along the front line west of the city of Donetsk, which has been held by Moscow’s proxies since 2014. Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian troops again tried to advance towards their main targets, Bakhmut and Avdiivka, with only limited success. .

Further south, Russian forces dug in on the east bank of the Dnipro and shelled areas beyond, including the city of Kherson, which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces this month.

Reuters could not immediately verify the battlefield reports.

Moscow says it is conducting a “special military operation” to protect Russian speakers in what Putin calls an artificial state carved out of Russia. Ukraine and the West are calling the invasion an unprovoked offensive war.

Additional Reporting by Stefaniia Bern and Reuters Agencies Written by Peter Graff, Alexandra Hudson Edited by Philippa Fletcher

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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