Ukraine’s government has vowed to set up shelters to provide heat and water after relentless Russian airstrikes have left its power structure in tatters as temperatures drop and snow falls.
Special “invincibility centers” will be set up across the country to provide citizens with electricity, heating, water, internet, mobile phone connections and a pharmacy, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his late-night video speech on Tuesday. The centers will be free and will operate 24 hours a day.
The Russian attacks have caused prolonged power outages for up to 10 million residents at a time. Ukraine has urged people to conserve energy, and the operator of the national power grid said on Tuesday that the damage had been colossal.
“If massive Russian attacks happen again and it is clear that power will not be restored for hours, the ‘invincibility centers’ will spring into action with all key services,” Zelenskyy said.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said this week that some 8,500 generator sets were imported into Ukraine every day.
Much of Ukraine saw its first snowfall of winter over the past week.
Authorities have warned of power outages that could affect millions of people through the end of March, the latest fallout from the nine-month-old Russian invasion that has already killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions and battered the global economy.
Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy facilities follow a series of battlefield setbacks that included withdrawing its forces from the southern city of Kherson.
Within a week of being retaken by Ukrainian forces, Kherson residents were tearing down Russian billboards and replacing them with pro-Ukrainian banners.
“The moment our soldiers came in, these posters were printed and handed over to us. We found workers to install the billboards and we cleaned up the billboard as quickly as possible,” said Antonina Dobrozhenska, who works in the government’s communications department.
Russian missiles hit a maternity hospital in the Zaporizhzhia region, killing a baby, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said on the Telegram messaging service early Wednesday.
The Reuters news agency could not independently verify the report. Russia denies launching attacks against civilians.
Battles are also continuing in the east, where Russia is pushing an offensive along a stretch of the front west of the city of Donetsk, which has been in the hands of its proxies since 2014. The Donetsk region was the scene of fierce attacks. and constant shelling. in the past 24 hours, Zelenskyy said.
Oriental #Ukraine To update:
– Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued counter-offensive operations throughout the #Svatove-Kreminna line.
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) November 23, 2022
In Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, Russian air defenses were activated and two drone strikes were repelled on Tuesday, including one launched at a power plant near Sevastopol, the regional governor said. Sevastopol is the home port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
Russian-installed Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev called for calm and said no damage had been done.
‘Stock up on warm clothes’
The World Health Organization warned this week that hundreds of Ukrainian hospitals and health centers were without fuel, water and electricity, and that residents faced a life-threatening winter.
“Ukraine’s healthcare 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,” Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said in a statement after visiting Ukraine.
Sergey Kovalenko, director of YASNO, which provides power to Kyiv, advised citizens to “stock up on warm clothes, blankets… think about options that will help you get through a long blackout.”
Russia’s attacks on energy infrastructure are a consequence of Kyiv’s unwillingness to negotiate, Russian state news agency TASS said last week, citing Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, claiming it was conducting a “special military operation” to protect Russian-speaking communities.
Ukraine and its allies say Russia’s actions constitute an unprovoked imperialist land grab in a neighboring state it dominated when the two countries were part of the former Soviet Union.
Western responses have included financial and military aid for Kyiv (it received 2.5 billion euros ($2.57 billion) from the EU on Tuesday and expects $4.5 billion in US aid in the coming weeks) and waves of sanctions against Russia.