Ukrainian firefighters work on a destroyed building after a drone attack in Kyiv on October 17, 2022
Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) - Ukraine warned Tuesday of an emerging “critical” risk to its power grid after President Volodymyr Zelensky said that repeated Russian bombardments had destroyed one-third of the country’s power facilities as winter approaches.
The warning came as Russian forces claimed to have retaken territory from Ukrainian troops in the eastern Kharkiv region, Moscow’s first announced capture of a village there since being nearly entirely pushed out of the region last month.
At the same time, Russian attacks rocked energy facilities in Kyiv and urban centres across the country, causing blackouts and disrupting water supplies, one day after the capital was bombarded with a swarm of suicide drones.
“The situation is critical now across the country. It’s necessary for the whole country to prepare for electricity, water and heating outages,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, told Ukrainian television.
The strikes in the early hours of Tuesday hit Kyiv, Kharkiv in the east, Mykolaiv in the south and central regions of Dnipro and Zhytomyr, where officials said hospitals were running on backup generators.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the repeated targeting of energy infrastructure 'another kind of Russian terrorist attacks'
But drones also bombarded Kyiv on Monday – the second in a row – leaving five dead, officials said, in what the presidency described as an attack of desperation after a string of battlefield losses.
Zelensky called the repeated targeting of energy infrastructure “another kind of Russian terrorist attacks”.
“Since October 10, 30 percent of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts across the country,” the Ukrainian leader said on Twitter.
- Hospitals on back-up power -
Many towns and cities in the Zhytomyr region, west of Kyiv, and parts of the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine were without electricity, while power was restored to the southern city of Mykolaiv after strikes overnight.
The Iranian drone Shahed 136
“Now the city is cut off from electricity and water supplies. Hospitals are working on backup power,” the mayor of Zhytomyr, Sergiy Sukhomlyn, said in a statement online.
The national emergency services said that after 10 days of strikes on energy facilities, some 1,162 towns and villages in nine regions had been left without power and more than 70 people were killed and 290 injured.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said three people had been killed in Tuesday’s strikes.
Zelensky earlier said the fresh wave of nationwide strikes – which he said had damaged a residential building and flower market in Mykolaiv – was a Russian attempt to “terrorise and kill civilians.”
- Kremlin denies Iran drone use -
Following the wave of kamikaze drone attacks against Kyiv on Monday, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba demanded EU sanctions on Iran, accusing Tehran of providing Russia with drones.
But on Tuesday, he said Ukraine should cut diplomatic ties with Iran, citing the “death” and “destruction” caused by the drones.
People demonstrate outside the Iranian embassy in Ukraine on October 17, 2022 in Kyiv, after the city was hit by swarms of kamikaze drones
The Kremlin said on Tuesday it had no knowledge of its army using Iranian drones in Ukraine.
“Russian tech is being used,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, referring other questions to the defence ministry.
The defence ministry did however confirm strikes on energy facilities over the past 24 hours, saying it had used long-range and precision weapons.
Iran has denied exporting any weapons to either side, but the United States warned it would take action against companies and nations working with Tehran’s drone programme following the strikes in Kyiv.
Western officials however said it was “increasingly evident that Russia is pursuing a deliberate strategy of trying to destroy heating, electrical networks” and that Iranian drones were playing an “increasingly significant role” in the conflict.
Senior presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak meanwhile called for Russia to be excluded from the upcoming G20 summit.
With fighting ongoing across a sprawling frontline in east and southern Ukraine, its military said that over the past 24 hours it had shot down 38 Iranian-made Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles.
Russia announced a rare battlefield victory Tuesday, in the eastern Kharkiv region, saying its forces had captured the village of Gorobiivka.
It was the first claim of victory since Ukrainian forces in September reclaimed huge swathes of the east in a string of embarrassing battlefield defeats.
Moscow’s forces have also been pushing towards Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, and with the fight edging closer, locals’ allegiances are spilling out into the public.
One shopper, Yulia, said she believed Ukrainian forces bombed cities that were about to be captured by Russia – repeating a conspiracy theory popular on social media.
“I don’t understand why Ukraine is destroying cities,” said the 46-year-old, who declined to give her surname saying that she was afraid of reprisals for her views.
Separately on Tuesday, Russian investigators said initial indications suggest that the crash of a military plane into a residential building near Ukraine was due to a technical malfunction.
Investigators said they were questioning the pilots of the Sukhoi Su-34, who managed to parachute out of the plane before it crashed on Monday evening into the nine-storey building, engulfing it in flames.