Ukraine has restored heat, light and water supplies to millions of people following the latest deadly Russian missile strikes and said such attacks made nuclear disaster a “real danger” after the country’s atomic power plants shut down during the bombardment.
Ukrainian officials said about 10 people were killed and around 50 injured when Russia targeted the country’s critical infrastructure on Wednesday, striking eight energy facilities and causing blackouts in almost every region and leaving millions without electricity or water on a night when many areas experienced sub-zero temperatures.
Engineers and emergency crews worked overnight and through Thursday to repair the damage, and power and water supplies were restored to most of the capital, Kyiv, and to large parts of many other cities and regions by evening.
“Yesterday, there was in fact a blackout of our energy system due to the rocket attacks that took place. The situation was very difficult, but at 4am we were able to link up the energy system and now it is working in a unified way,” said energy minister Herman Halushchenko.
“We expect nuclear power plants to start operating by evening, supplying electricity to the grid, and this will significantly reduce the [power] deficit. This is the first time that all four nuclear power plants [in Ukraine] were turned off at the same time.”
Ukraine’s atomic energy operator Energoatom said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Russian-occupied territory was reconnected to the national grid on Thursday morning and emergency diesel generators were switched off, while three other plants in government-held areas were undergoing “start-up operations”.
“There is a real danger of a nuclear and radiation disaster caused by the shelling of the entire territory of Ukraine by Russian cruise and ballistic missiles, and a huge risk of damage to nuclear plants,” warned Energoatom president Petro Kotin.
He said the “criminal actions of [Russian president Vladimir] Putin and his accomplices, which are pushing humanity to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe, cannot be called anything other than blackmail of the whole world. Russia must answer for this shameful crime”.
French president Emmanuel Macron said “strikes against civilian infrastructures are war crimes and cannot go unpunished”, while German chancellor Olaf Scholz said it was “not only unbearable, but a blatant violation of international law that Russia has been dropping its bombs against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine for weeks”.
In a video address to the UN Security Council, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia “offers nothing to the world except terror, destabilisation and disinformation” and called it “nonsense” that Moscow still wielded a veto on the council.
Russia insisted that its troops were targeting only military sites in Ukraine, and claimed that all damage done to civilian areas was caused by debris from rockets shot down by Ukrainian forces or by wayward air-defence missiles supplied by western states.
“The leadership of Ukraine has every possibility to get the situation back on a normal track, every possibility to normalise the situation by meeting the demands of the Russian side and, in so doing, to halt all possible suffering of the civilian population,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.