Ukraine: 10M without power amid Russian attacks on critical infrastructure

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Nov. 18 (UPI) — President Volodymyr Zelensky said 10 million Ukrainians were without power Thursday night as Russia continued to batter the eastern European country’s civilian infrastructure.

Ukraine has implemented rolling blackouts as Kremlin forces have been targeting the country’s energy facilities and other crucial infrastructure in what the Ukrainian president has described as “energy terrorism.”

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Officials said early this month that 40% of Ukraine’s entire energy infrastructure has been damaged, with additional facilities sustaining significant damage since.

Zelensky said during his nightly address Thursday that emergency energy shutdowns in addition to planned stabilization efforts have more than 10 million without electricity, mostly in the eastern Vinnytsia, southern Odesa, northwestern Sumy and central Kyiv regions.

“We are doing everything to normalize the supply,” he said.

Amid the recent shelling, seven people were killed when a missile hit a residential building in southeastern Zaporizhzhia, he said, adding that he expects that number to increase.

The military was able to down six Russian cruise missiles and five Iranian-made drones, but the defense systems they do have were not able to thwart all Russian attacks, and Zelensky repeated his call on ally nations for more air defense equipment.

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“Only full protection of the Ukrainian sky will protect both Ukraine and Europe from many possible escalations of Russian aggression and will definitely encourage Russia to truly end the war,” he said.

Officials said the largest attack on the energy sector occurred Tuesday, affecting the entire country.

The rolling blackouts and the attacks on infrastructure come as the temperatures begin to drop ahead of winter, with energy officials warning that the next few days will be difficult and United Nations officials expressing concern over a developing humanitarian crisis.

“Due to sharp cold temperatures, electricity consumption is increasing daily in regions of Ukraine where power has been restored following the Nov. 15 massive rocket strikes on energy infrastructure,” NPC Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s energy transmission operator, said in a statement Friday. “It complicates an already difficult situation in the energy system.”

Officials are forced to apply restrictions as a “necessary measure” to maintain stability of the entire system, it said, adding its facilities have sustained six major missile attacks amid the nearly nine-month-long war.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Wednesday that the attacks on critical civilian infrastructure, especially energy, have increased the urgent needs of millions of people and are raising concerns “about a serious humanitarian crisis during the harsh Ukrainian winter.”

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“Millions are facing constant power cuts, and the lack of energy is also affecting water pumping, adding to the previous challenges faced by millions of people to access clean water or run their heating systems at home,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.

In newly recaptured Kherson city in southern Ukraine, people have not had water and electricity for more than two weeks, it said, with markets running low on food and most shops empty.