LVIV/KYIV — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia would surely launch new missile attacks on his country and warned defense forces and citizens to prepare to withstand another week of strain on the power grid as snow fell in Kyiv.
City authorities said workers were close to completing restoration of power, water and heat after days of Russian attacks, but high demand meant some blackouts had been imposed.
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“We understand that the terrorists are planning new strikes. We know this for a fact,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address late on Sunday. “And as long as they have missiles, they, unfortunately, will not calm down.”
Zelenskiy said 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.
There was no response from Moscow to Zelenskiy’s claims.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Moscow has said it does not target the civilian population. The Kremlin said on Thursday that Kyiv could “end the suffering” of its population by meeting Russia’s demands.
Russia annexed swaths of Ukraine’s east and south in September and President Vladimir Putin said Moscow’s territorial demands are non-negotiable. After the annexation, Zelenskiy said he would not negotiate with Moscow and that Ukraine’s territorial integrity cannot be negotiated.
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.
Intense fighting raged along front lines in various parts of Ukraine, particularly in the eastern Donetsk region, Zelenskiy said. The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Sunday that Russian troops had shelled a dozen villages in the eastern region of Donetsk, including the main targets of Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Russian forces had launched several failed attacks on the town of Soledar, near Bakhmut, and had taken heavy losses in a separate push towards Avdiivka.
Heavy fighting was also going on in the northeastern Kharkiv region, near areas recaptured by the Ukrainian army in September and October, he said on YouTube.
ATTACKS ON ENERGY
Moscow has targeted vital infrastructure in recent weeks through waves of air strikes that have sparked widespread power outages and killed civilians.
The attacks have increased as cold weather sets in, boosting energy demand as repair workers race to fix wrecked power facilities.
Fresh strikes last Wednesday caused the worst damage so far in the nine-month conflict, leaving millions of people with no light, water or heat, as temperatures fell below 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).
Zelenskiy said utility and emergency teams were working around the clock to provide power, with the situation “under control” though most regions were subject to scheduled blackouts to help restore the grid.
In Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine abandoned by Russian troops this month, regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said 17% of customers now had power. Other districts would be connected in coming days.
Sergey Kovalenko, chief operating officer of YASNO, which provides energy to Kyiv, said on Saturday evening the situation in the city has improved but remained “quite difficult.”
Zelenskiy criticized Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, saying he had not done enough to help beleaguered residents. Klitschko, a former professional boxer, replied that political infighting was “senseless” amid Russia’s military campaign.
The head of Ukraine’s state-run nuclear energy firm said on Sunday there were signs that Russian forces might be preparing to leave the vast Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant which they seized in March. Repeated shelling around the plant has spurred fears of a nuclear catastrophe.
“One gets the impression they’re packing their bags and stealing everything they can,” Petro Kotin, head of Energoatom, said on national television.
Along with energy, food supplies have also been disrupted by the war, with Ukraine’s grain exports unlikely to reach 3 million tonnes in November compared with 4.2 million tonnes in October as Russia tries to limit ship inspections, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said late on Sunday.
(Reporting by Oleksandr Kozhukhar, Tom Balmforth and Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv, Ronald Popeski in Winnipeg and Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Writing by Stephen Coates; Editing by Himani Sarkar)