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

KYIV/MOSCOW-Russia’s sustained attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have interrupted supplies to as much as 40% of the country’s population at the onset of winter.

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

“You always need to prepare for the worst. We understand that the enemy wants to destroy our power system in general, to cause long outages,” Ukrenergo’s chief executive Volodymyr Kudrytskyi told Ukrainian state television.

“We need to prepare for possible long outages, but at the moment we are introducing schedules that are planned and will do everything to ensure that the outages are not very long.”

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

“It’s a critical situation,” he said. Klitschko added that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military planners apparently are hoping “to bring us, everyone, to depression,” to make people feel unsafe and “to think about, ‘Maybe we give up.’” But it won’t work, he said.

The power situation at critical facilities such as hospitals and schools in several areas have been stabilized, according to Ukrenergo.

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

Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy and power facilities have fueled fears of what the dead of winter will bring. Ukraine’s energy infrastructure had again been targeted 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 will send 14 new electric generators to Ukraine, where Russian attacks on energy infrastructure are leaving many Ukrainians without electricity and hot water to spend 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,” said Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares.

The Ukrainian government had asked for “additional support” from the EU, estimating that almost half of the energy infrastructures have been put out of order by the massive Russian strikes which have targeted them since the beginning of October, while the first snows fell on the country on Thursday.

Madrid had already announced on Oct. 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 that Ukraine’s military is winning the war and Russian President Putin has only united NATO and renewed its purpose.

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 driven, disciplined, and better-trained - and they are winning,” Anand said.

Russia is facing mounting setbacks in nearly nine months of fighting. Moscow recently pulled troops out of the key city of Kherson in southern Ukraine. But Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy and power facilities have fueled fears of what the dead of winter will bring.

Anand said Putin wrongly assumed the Russian army would easily override the Ukrainians and that the West would sit back.

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

Moscow, meanwhile, has accused Ukrainian soldiers of executing more than 10 Russian prisoners of war, accusing Kyiv of carrying out 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 Defense Ministry’s assertions.

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

“This is common practice in the Armed Forces of Ukraine that is actively supported by the Kyiv regime and blatantly ignored by its Western patrons.”

There was no immediate response from Kyiv, which has said previously 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 appear to be Russian soldiers lying down 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 around 12 bodies. It was unclear when the video was filmed or who filmed it.

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

In a statement to Reuters, Marta Hurtado, a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office said: “We are aware of the videos and we are looking into them. Allegations of summary executions of people hors de combat should be promptly, fully and effectively investigated, and any perpetrators held to account.”

Earlier this week, the UN said it had spoken to Ukrainian prisoners of war, captured by the Russians, who reported suffering torture and ill-treatment. It said it had also documented cases of ill-treatment of Russian prisoners of war in Ukrainian facilities.

Matilda Bogner, head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, said the mistreatment of Ukrainian prisoners by Russians was “fairly systematic” while 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 discredited itself in this way, 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 to. Lavrov.

“We expect the Russian Federation to choose the members of its delegation in accordance with the regulations in force,” a source in this rotating annual 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 Feb. 24, including Sergei Lavrov.

The meeting of the 57 Foreign Ministers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will take place on Dec. 1 and 2 in Lodz, a city in central Poland.

The Russian delegation there 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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