World

Ukrainians suffer in dark and cold as Russia continues to target electricity and water supply

Russia rained down missiles across Ukraine on Wednesday, forcing shutdowns of nuclear power plants and killing civilians as Moscow pursues its campaign to plunge Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.

'We are an unbreakable people,' Zelenskyy says as attacks force shutdown of 3 nuclear reactors

A cityscape in darkness.
A view of Kyiv in darkness after critical civil infrastructure was hit by Russian missile attacks Wednesday. (Vladyslav Sodel/Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to act against Russia over air strikes on civilian infrastructure that have again plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.

Russia rained down missiles across Ukraine for another day, forcing shutdowns of nuclear power plants and killing civilians as Moscow pursues its campaign to plunge Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.

"Today is just one day, but we have received 70 missiles. That's the Russian formula of terror. This is all against our energy infrastructure ... Hospitals, schools, transport, residential districts all suffered," Zelenskyy said via video link to the council chamber.

Ukraine was waiting to see "a very firm reaction" to Wednesday's air strikes from the world, he added.

The council is unlikely to take any action in response to the appeal since Russia is a member with veto power.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russian President Vladimir Putin was "clearly weaponizing winter to inflict immense suffering on the Ukrainian people."

The Russian president "will try to freeze the country into submission," she added.

Emergency workers working on a person on a stretcher by the light of their ambulance.
Rescuers work at a site of a Russian missile strike in Kyiv. At least 10 people were killed and dozens injured, according to Ukrainian officials. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Multiple regions reported attacks in quick succession Wednesday and Ukraine's Energy Ministry said that "the vast majority of electricity consumers were cut off."

The capital city of Kyiv was one of the main targets on Wednesday of the missile strikes. "Today we had three hits on high-rise apartment buildings. Unfortunately 10 people died," said Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky. Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.

Regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said dozens of people were injured, including five children, in a statement posted on Telegram. Ukraine's Defence Ministry said two people were killed by missile strikes elsewhere.

"Our little one was sleeping. Two years old. She was sleeping, she got covered. She is alive, thanks be to God," said Fyodr, a Kyiv resident walking away from a smouldering apartment building that was hit in Kyiv, dragging a suitcase.

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All of the Kyiv region — home to more than three million people — lost electricity and running water, Kyiv's governor said. Much of Ukraine suffered similar problems and some regions implemented emergency blackouts to help conserve energy and carry out repairs.

Early on Thursday, Zelenskyy said power and other services were being reconnected in more areas. "Energy specialists, municipal workers, emergency crews are working around the clock," he said in a video address.

In the Lviv region in the country's west, 90 per cent of electricity was restored, while in Odesa on the Crimean Peninsula, water and heat were fully reinstated, though only 10 per cent of people had power again, Zelenskyy said.

Other regions were in varying stages of recovery. Only about 20 per cent of electricity users in the Kyiv region were back online. "In Kyiv, the situation is very difficult," the president said. "We expect a result … before lunch."

WATCH | Shelling dangerously close to nuclear plant: 

Shelling hits dangerously close to Ukraine nuclear plant

16 days ago
Duration 2:07
United Nations officials say shelling around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant hit dangerously close to some of its reactors over the weekend, though it’s unclear who is to blame.

Since October, Russia has repeatedly targeted electric power and heating infrastructure. Moscow says the aim is to reduce Ukraine's ability to fight; Kyiv says the intentional strikes on civilian infrastructure constitute a war crime.

In an earlier video address, Zelenskyy announced special "invincibility centres" would be set up around Ukraine to provide electricity, heat, water, internet, mobile phone connections and a pharmacy, free of charge and around the clock.

Russia may be running out of drones: U.K.

Russia has been striking Ukraine with expensive long-range cruise missiles and with cheap Iranian-made drones.  Britain's Defence Ministry said on Wednesday there had been no public reports of Russia using Iranian one-way attack drones since around Nov. 17, which it said was a sign Moscow might be running out of them, and would try to get more.

On the Ukrainian side, the U.S. is sending another $400 million US in weapons, ammunition and generators to Ukraine, the White House announced Wednesday, and is pulling the gear from its own stockpiles to get the support to Kyiv as fast as possible.

Battles raged in the east, where Russia is pressing an offensive along a stretch of front line west of the city of Donetsk, which has been held by its proxies since 2014.

Ukrainian authorities said an overnight rocket attack destroyed a hospital maternity ward in southern Ukraine, killing a two-day-old baby.

Following the overnight strike in Vilniansk, close to the city of Zaporizhzhia, the baby's mother and a doctor were pulled alive from the rubble.

The region's governor said the rockets were Russian.

'Why kill children?'

First Lady Olena Zelenska wrote on Twitter that a two-day-old boy died in the strike and expressed her condolences. "Horrible pain. We will never forget and never forgive," she said.

Medical workers' efforts have been complicated by the succession of Russian attacks in recent weeks on Ukraine's infrastructure. The situation is even worse in the southern city of Kherson, from which Russia retreated nearly two weeks ago after months of occupation, cutting power and water lines.

WATCH | Newborn killed in strike, Ukraine says:

2-day-old baby killed by Russian strike on hospital, Ukrainian officials say

15 days ago
Duration 5:03
Ukrainian officials say a hospital in Zaporizhzhia was destroyed in a Russian bombardment. A two-day-old baby in the hospital's maternity ward was killed, they said.

Many doctors in the city are working in the dark, unable to use elevators to transport patients to surgery and operating with headlamps, cellphones and flashlights.

"Breathing machines don't work, X-ray machines don't work ... There is only one portable ultrasound machine and we carry it constantly," said Volodymyr Malishchuk, the head of surgery at a children's hospital in the city.

On Tuesday, after strikes on Kherson seriously wounded 13-year-old Artur Voblikov, a team of health staff carefully manoeuvred the sedated boy up six flights of a narrow staircase to an operating room to amputate his left arm.

Artur's mother, Natalia Voblikova, sat in the dark hospital with her daughter, waiting for his surgery to end.

"You can't even call [Russians] animals, because animals take care of their own," said Voblikova, wiping tears from her eyes. "But the children.... Why kill children?"

Ukrainian firefighters work to extinguish a fire at the scene of a Russian shelling in the town of Vyshgorod outside the capital, Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday. Authorities reported power outages in multiple cities, including Kyiv, and in neighbouring Moldova. (Efrem Lukatsky/The Associated Press)

In Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed a non-binding but symbolically significant resolution labelling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism for its actions in Ukraine.

Several hours later, the European Parliament's website was hit by a cyberattack.

Meanwhile, European officials were debating the details of a global price cap on Russian oil, a U.S.-backed proposal taken up by the G7 and set to come into effect on Dec. 5 with the intent of curbing Moscow's ability to fund the war.

While Western sanctions already mean Russian seaborne crude is now mostly sold in Asia, the trade still mainly involves European shippers and insurers who would be barred from transporting cargo above the capped price. 

A European diplomat said the price cap being discussed would be in the $65-70 US per barrel range. Russia's Urals crude blend already trades at around $70 a barrel, a steep discount to other benchmarks, as a result of sanctions.

Doctors operate on 13-year-old Artur Voblikov inside a hospital in Kherson, southern Ukraine, Tuesday. As attacks increase in the recently liberated city, doctors are struggling to cope as supplies of water, electricity and equipment run low. (Bernat Armangue/The Associated Press)

In Vatican City, Pope Francis on Wednesday linked the suffering of Ukrainians now to the 1930s "genocide artificially caused by Stalin," when the Soviet leader was blamed for creating a man-made famine in Ukraine believed to have killed more than three million people.

Francis's linking of the plight of Ukrainian civilians today to those killed by starvation 90 years ago, and his willingness to call it a "genocide" caused by Josef Stalin, marked a sharp escalation in papal rhetoric against Russia. As of this year, only 17 countries have officially recognized the famine, known as the Holodomor, as a genocide, according to the Holodomor Museum in Kyiv.

With files from The Associated Press

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