Ukraine braces for further Russian strikes on its energy facilities as wintry weather moves in

People with illnesses, mothers with young children and the elderly are urged to move from recently-liberated parts of the Kherson region to safer areas of Ukraine

Ukraine braced for more Russian attacks on its power grid as wintry weather took hold across the country and engineers worked to restore heat, light and water supplies after a crippling missile strike caused mass blackouts.

“Next week could be very tough. The Russians are planning new terrorist attacks against energy facilities,” David Arakhamia, the head of Servant of the People, Ukraine’s ruling political party, warned on Sunday as millions of people in all regions continued to suffer power cuts.

“The emergency services and authorities are working out different scenarios. Lots of training has taken place, energy workers and critical infrastructure have practised what to do…We are preparing. The military is preparing,” he added, while urging people to “stock up on water and long-lasting food and charge phones and portable chargers”.

In his nightly video address on Sunday, president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he expected the coming week could be as difficult as the previous one, when attacks on electricity infrastructure subjected Ukrainians to the most acute power cuts since Russian troops invaded in February.


He said of the Russians that “as long as they have missiles, they, unfortunately, will not calm down”.

There was no response from Moscow to his claims.

Sunday was relatively calm with no devastating attacks on Kyiv or other major cities. Ukraine’s central army command said Russian forces launched four missile attacks and fired multiple times on civilian objects in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

State energy firm Ukrenergo said that by Sunday morning the power grid was able to meet 80 per cent of the country’s electricity needs, but that blackouts of several hours would continue in most areas as engineers conducted repairs in difficult conditions.

“Today every Ukrainian who has power again can help us restore it more quickly for others by using electricity carefully. This allows us to impose fewer restrictions to prevent accidents and lets engineers focus on repairs to damaged facilities, which become more complicated with each rocket attack,” the company said in a message to customers.

Temperatures across Ukraine are forecast to hover near zero over the coming week, increasing fears for people’s safety amid Russian attacks that the United Nations human rights office says are plunging millions “into extreme hardship and appalling conditions”.

The government has urged people with illnesses, mothers with young children and the elderly to move from recently-liberated parts of the Kherson region to safer areas of Ukraine for the winter, and patients at some hospitals in the province have already been evacuated.

Heavy shelling in recent days has killed about a dozen people and injured scores of others in Kyiv-controlled parts of Kherson region, where governor Yaroslav Yanushevich said Russian rockets brought down power lines again on Sunday.

“Such vile attacks by the enemy will not break us! We will continue working to restore electricity to Kherson region,” he said on social media.“Our energy workers have done the impossible. Just two weeks after the liberation of Kherson, power began to appear in the city. This despite the fact that the Russians practically destroyed the energy infrastructure of the city.”

Ukraine launched an initiative to promote grain exports to states vulnerable to food shortages on Saturday, when it also commemorated the millions of Ukrainians who died in the 1932-33 Holodomor – a famine caused a brutal Soviet policy of seizing grain, livestock and seeds from newly collectivised farms, which disproportionately affected the Ukrainian peasantry.

Mr Zelenskiy said more than 20 countries had backed the Grain from Ukraine programme with about $150 million (€144 million) in funds, enough for some 60 cargo ships of food products.

“Ukrainians went through genocide. And today we are doing everything stop Russia’s new genocidal policy. A new one – but similar to the one that killed millions of people in the 20th century,” he added.

The Seanad formally recognised the Holodomor as genocide last week, a position shared by the United States, Canada, Australia, Poland and 12 other countries.

“Today we stand united in stating that hunger must never again be used as a weapon. That is why we cannot tolerate what we are witnessing,” said Olaf Scholz, chancellor of Germany, where the Bundestag is also planning to recognise the Holodomor as genocide. - Additional reporting - Reuters

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe