Electricity problems as Russia’s attacks plunge millions into darkness in Ukraine

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Kyiv/MOSCOW — Sustained Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure cut off supplies to 40% of the country’s population at the start of winter.

Freezing temperatures are putting additional pressure on energy networks, network operator Ukrenergo said.

“You always have to prepare for the worst. We understand that the enemy wants to destroy our electrical system in general, to cause long blackouts,” Ukrenergo general director Volodymyr Kudrytskyi told Ukrainian state television.

“We have to prepare for possible long interruptions, but for the moment we are introducing planned times and we will do everything to ensure that the interruptions are not very long.”

The capital of Kyiv already faces a “huge electricity deficit”, Mayor Vitali Klitschko told The Associated Press. Some 1.5 to 2 million people – about half the city’s population – are periodically plunged into darkness as authorities switch power from one neighborhood to another.

“It’s a critical situation,” he said. Klitschko added that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military planners apparently hope “to get us, everybody, into depression,” make people feel unsafe, and “think about ‘Maybe we’re giving up. ‘”. But that won’t work, he said.

The electrical situation in critical facilities such as hospitals and schools in several regions has been stabilized, according to Ukrenergo.

These facilities were targeted overnight in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, where energy equipment was damaged, according to the local governor. Eight people, including energy crews and police, were injured trying to clear the debris, he said.

Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy and power facilities have fueled fears of what winter will bring. Ukraine’s energy infrastructure was targeted again on Thursday, two days after Russia unleashed a nationwide barrage of more than 100 missiles and drones that knocked out power to 10 million people.

Meanwhile, the Spanish government announced on Saturday that it would send 14 new electric generators to Ukraine, where Russian attacks on energy infrastructure are leaving many Ukrainians without electricity or hot water to get through the winter.

“(Friday) we sent a new package of 14 generators to face the winter which is proving to be very harsh and very difficult in Ukraine,” declared Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares.

The Ukrainian government had asked for “additional support” from the EU, estimating that almost half of the energy infrastructure has been disabled by the massive Russian strikes that have targeted them since the beginning of October, when the first snows fell on the country Thursday.

Madrid had already announced on October 10 that five electricity generators would be sent to Ukraine. “Spain will also send 30 additional ambulances as well as police reinforcements to help the Ukrainian authorities investigate possible war crimes on its territory,” Foreign Minister Albares said.

In another development, Canada’s defense minister said the Ukrainian military was winning the war and that Russian President Putin had only united NATO and renewed its focus.

Defense Minister Anita Anand made the remarks at the annual Halifax International Security Forum, which attracts defense and security officials from Western democracies.

“The spirit and determination of the Ukrainian people and President (Volodymyr) Zelensky continue to inspire us all. Ukraine’s armed forces are motivated, disciplined and better trained – and they are winning,” Anand said.

Russia faces mounting setbacks in nearly nine months of fighting. Moscow recently withdrew its troops from the key city of Kherson in southern Ukraine. But Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy and power facilities have fueled fears of what winter will bring.

Anand said Putin had mistakenly assumed the Russian military would easily override the Ukrainians and the West would stand idly by.

“Putin misjudged. The large-scale, unprovoked invasion of Russia has only strengthened NATO’s resolve and unity – and renewed its raison d’être,” she said.

Moscow, meanwhile, accused Ukrainian soldiers of executing more than 10 Russian POWs, accusing Kyiv of committing war crimes and the West of ignoring them.

The Russian Defense Ministry cited a video circulating on Russian social media which it said showed the execution of Russian prisoners of war. Reuters was unable to immediately verify either the video or the Ministry of Defense claims.

“This brutal murder of Russian servicemen is neither the first nor the only war crime,” the ministry said.

“This is a common practice in the Ukrainian Armed Forces which is actively supported by the Kyiv regime and blatantly ignored by its Western bosses.”

There was no immediate response from Kyiv, which previously said it would investigate any alleged abuses by its armed forces. Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of war crimes, which Moscow has denied.

The video shows what appears to be Russian soldiers lying on the ground in Makiivka, in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, after surrendering to armed men with yellow bands on their arms.

Then automatic gunfire rings out and the video shows about 12 bodies. It is not known when the video was filmed or who filmed it.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the video showed “the deliberate and methodical killing of more than 10 immobilized Russian servicemen by degenerate Ukrainian soldiers”.

In a statement to Reuters, Marta Hurtado, spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office, said: “We are aware of the videos and we are reviewing them. Allegations of summary executions of persons hors de combat should be promptly, fully and effectively investigated, and any perpetrator held accountable.

Earlier this week, the UN said it spoke to Ukrainian prisoners of war, captured by the Russians, who said they had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. He said he also documented cases of mistreatment of Russian POWs in Ukrainian facilities.

Matilda Bogner, head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, said Russian mistreatment of Ukrainian prisoners was ‘quite systematic’ when it was ‘not systematic’ for Ukraine to mistreat Russian soldiers.

Russia has denounced as “provocative” a decision by Warsaw to refuse to issue a visa to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who wanted to attend a meeting of OSCE foreign ministers.

“Poland’s decision (…) is provocative and unprecedented,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“Not only has Warsaw thus discredited itself, but it has caused irreparable damage to the authority of the entire Organization” for security and cooperation in Europe, the statement said.

Poland, which is organizing the ministerial meeting of the OSCE in early December, announced on Friday that it had refused entry into its territory. Lavrov.

“We expect the Russian Federation to choose the members of its delegation in accordance with the regulations in force,” a source in this annual rotating presidency, currently held by Warsaw, told AFP.

According to her, the Russian delegation should not “include people sanctioned by the European Union (EU)” following the Russian offensive in Ukraine launched on February 24, including Sergei Lavrov.

The meeting of the 57 foreign ministers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will take place on December 1-2 in Lodz, a city in central Poland.

The Russian delegation will be led by Russian Ambassador to the OSCE, Alexander Lukashevich, according to Moscow. The Vienna-based OSCE was founded in 1975 at the height of the Cold War to promote East-West dialogue. —Euronews

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