Ukraine’s electricity grid chief warned of hours-long power outages Friday as Russia zeroed in on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with heavy artillery and missile attacks that have interrupted supplies to as much as 40% of the country’s people 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.
“It’s wrong, it’s (a) wrong vision of Putin,” he said. “After every rocket attack, I talk to the people, to simple civilians. They (are) not depressed. They were angry, angry and ready to stay and defend our houses, our families and our future.”
Kudrytskyi added that the power situation at critical facilities such as hospitals and schools has been stabilized.
Those facilities were targeted overnight in the northeastern Kharkiv region, where energy equipment was damaged, according to governor Oleh Syniehubov. 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.
Those attacks have also affected neighboring countries like Moldova, where a half-dozen cities across that country experienced temporary blackouts.
In the past 24 hours, Russian forces unleashed the breadth of their arsenal to attack Ukraine’s southeast, employing drones, rockets, heavy artillery and warplanes that killed at least six civilians and wounded six others, the president’s office said.
In the Zaporizhzhia region, part of which remains under Russian control, artillery pounded 10 towns and villages. The death toll from a Russian rocket attack on a residential building in the city of Vilniansk on Thursday climbed to 10 people, including three children.
In Nikopol, located across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, 40 Russian missiles damaged several high-rise buildings, homes and a power line.
In the wake of its humiliating retreat from the southern city of Kherson, Moscow intensified its assault on the eastern Donetsk region, where Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday its forces took control of the village of Opytne and repelled a Ukrainian counteroffensive to reclaim the settlements of Solodke, Volodymyrivka and Pavlivka.
The city of Bakhmut, a key target of Moscow’s attempt to seize the whole region of Donetsk, remains the scene of heavy fighting, the regional governor said.
The Russian Defense Ministry also said Ukrainian troops were pushed back from Yahidne in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv province, and Kuzemivka in the neighboring Luhansk province. Donetsk and Luhansk were among the four Ukrainian provinces illegally annexed by Moscow in September, together with Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
At the same time, Moscow is fortifying its defenses in the southern region to thwart further Ukrainian advances. Russian troops have built new trench systems near the border of Crimea, as well as near the Siversky-Donets River between Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, according to a British Ministry of Defense report.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian and international investigators were forging ahead on uncovering suspected war crimes committed by Russian forces during the Kharkiv region’s near seven-month occupation. Ukraine’s National Police said Friday that its officers had initiated over 3,000 criminal proceedings against Russian troops.
Reports of torture and other atrocities committed by Russian troops have also emerged from the southern Kherson region, where Ukrainian officials said they have opened more than 430 war crimes cases and are investigating four alleged torture sites.
Alesha Babenko, a 27-year-old from the village of Kyselivka said he was arrested by the Russians in September and locked in a basement, then beaten daily while bound, blindfolded and threatened with electric shocks.
“I thought I was going to die,” he told the AP.
On Friday, Russian officials denounced videos that appeared on social media that purportedly show Ukrainian troops executing Russian soldiers. Russia said the videos were recorded in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, which is almost entirely under Russian control.
“We demand international organizations to condemn this egregious crime, to conduct a thorough investigation of it,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. Russia’s human rights council said it had sent the videos to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and other international organizations.
Earlier this week, the head of the Matilda Bogner, head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, Matilda Bogner, said the mission had investigated torture of prisoners on both sides of the conflict.
“We have received credible allegations of summary executions of persons hors de combat and several cases of torture and ill-treatment, reportedly committed by members of the Ukrainian armed forces,” Bogner said.
The recapture of Kyselivka after Russia’s withdrawal last week has sparked hopes in neighboring Mykolaiv province that they will once again have tap water, which was switched off after the village fell into Russian hands. But Mykolaiv administrator Vitali Kim predicted Friday that could take several weeks.
Hungry and cold, Kherson residents lined up Friday for food from a charity, with many saying they had nothing to eat and had no heat or electricity. Residents were further shaken after a missile struck the fourth floor of an apartment building, reminding them that the Russian occupation may be over but not the danger from Russian missiles.
“There was an explosion … it was very scary. We cannot calm down,” said Tatiana Kruvorchko, who lived in the building.
Despite the tremendous hardships across Ukraine, one hopeful sign emerged with the news that the first train from Kyiv to Kherson would be departing Friday night. Ukraine’s state rail network Ukrzaliznytsia said 200 passengers will travel on the train – the first in nine months.
Dubbed the “Train to Victory,” the train’s carriages were painted in eclectic designs by Ukrainian artists and the tickets were sold as part of charity project.
A “barbarous killing of Russian prisoners of war” is just the latest in a series of war crimes committed by Ukrainian troops, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday. The statement came after videos that surfaced online purportedly showed executed Russian servicemen after they surrendered.
“This is a widespread practice of the Ukrainian Armed Forces that is actively supported by the Kiev regime and outright ignored by its Western backers,” the ministry stressed. It also blasted the actions of the Ukrainian soldiers as a “deliberate and methodical murder.”
“No one will be able to portray it as a ‘tragic exception’ amid the Kiev regime’s alleged total compliance with the norms regulating the rights of POWs,” the statement reads.
The footage allegedly shows a group of soldiers dressed in Russian uniforms surrendering to troops in uniforms with Ukrainian insignia. It also depicts the captured servicemen lying on the ground, presumably dead.
The video demonstrates the “barbaric nature” of President Vladimir Zelensky’s regime, as well as of its backers, the Russian Defense Ministry asserted.
This is not the first such high-profile incident supposedly involving Russian and Ukrainian troops that has generated media attention. In March, another video surfaced on social media purportedly showing Ukrainian troops shooting at the legs of Russian soldiers lying on the ground at point-blank range.
Later the same month, footage allegedly showed the killing of a wounded Russian soldier lying on a road somewhere in Ukraine. Bodies of other soldiers dressed in Russian uniforms and lying in pools of blood were also visible in the video. Some of them had their hands tied behind their backs and no weapons were visible on any of them.
**German Panzerhaubitze 2000 artillery guns are failing to withstand the rigors of combat in Ukraine, and Berlin hasn’t sourced enough spare parts to keep the cannons working, Der Spiegel reported.
Germany has sent Ukraine 14 of its state-of-the-art Panzerhaubitze (PzH) 2000 self-propelled howitzers, but problems emerged the moment they hit the battlefield. The guns were suffering from “wear and tear” and displaying error messages back in July, and six were recently sent to Lithuania for repair, the German newspaper reported on Friday.
Of these, only five will be heading back to the battlefield. Neither the German military nor its arms industry could provide the necessary spare parts to fix all the guns, the report continued, explaining that technicians had to cannibalize one of them to fix the others.
The German government has been aware of this parts shortage since late summer, when the military warned it to order “extensive spare parts packages,”Der Spiegel claimed. Such an order was apparently not made, and the shortage has hampered Germany’s plans to set up a repair hub in Slovakia.
In planning since September and announced by German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht earlier this week, the repair hub will maintain howitzers and air-defense systems sent to Ukraine by Berlin.
German military officials believe that Ukraine is firing as many as 300 rounds from each PzH 2000 per day, Friday’s report stated. Der Spiegel’s first article on the malfunctioning guns in July noted that 100 rounds per day is considered high-intensity use, and that ammo shortages were forcing Ukraine to load the cannons with incompatible ammunition.
**The Ukrainian crisis is not a conflict between Russia and Ukraine but a "war between Russia and the West" which above all the US is interested in dragging out, Deputy Chairman of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party Numan Kurtulmus told the CNN Turk TV channel on Friday.
"This war is actually not a conflict between Russia and Ukraine but a war between Russia and the West. The US and a number of European countries, by providing support to Ukraine, are engaged in the process of prolonging this war. Our [Turkey’s] goal is achieving the swiftest end to the conflict but some people are making an effort for it to continue," the politician who belongs to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party said.
According to him, by drawing out the Ukrainian conflict, the US wants to tip the global balance of forces in its favor which was disrupted after the fall of the Soviet Union. "Many countries are involved in the battle for global influence which is a risk in itself. The US pursues its own interests. It is necessary to create a global political system which would make it possible to establish new structures capable of ensuring peace on the planet," the politician noted, reiterating Erdogan’s proposal to reform the existing UN system.
The Turkish president repeatedly stated, even at the UN, that the international organization in its current form is unable to settle crises emerging worldwide. His initiative’s "The World is Bigger than Five" motto provides for reforming the UN Security Council system where its five permanent members with veto power (the UK, China, Russia, the US and France) dominate. Any of them can block any UN decision. Non-permanent members of the Security Council do not have this power.