Ukraine rushes to restore power grid after Russian strikes as winter approaches

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine scrambled to restore power on Tuesday after Russia’s latest wave of missile strikes caused power cuts across the country as winter frosts piled on and temperatures drop.
Of the 70 missiles launched by Moscow, “most” were shot down, President Volodymyr Zelenskyyy said, but the barrage still hit Ukraine’s already damaged infrastructure.
New power cuts were announced in all regions “due to the consequences of the bombings”, national electricity supplier Ukrenergo said on Telegram.
The head of Ukrenergo said he had “no doubt that the Russian military consulted Russian engineers during this attack”, judging by where the missiles landed.
“The timing the Russians chose for this attack was tied to their desire to inflict as much damage as possible,” Volodymyr Kudrytskyi told a Ukrainian news program, explaining that the attacks were launched as the country enters in a period of “maximum frost”.
“Our repairers will work on restoring the energy system.”
Nearly half of Ukraine’s energy system has already been damaged after months of power infrastructure strikes, leaving people cold and dark for hours as temperatures outside drop below zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).
As missiles rained down on Kyiv, UN rights chief Volker Turk, who arrived this weekend for a four-day visit, had to move his meetings with activists to an underground shelter.
Zelenskyy announced in his evening speech that four people had been killed in the Russian strikes.
But “our people never give up,” the president said in a video statement.
Moscow in turn blamed Ukraine for drone attacks in Russia’s Saratov and Ryazan regions that caused explosions at two of its airfields and killed three soldiers.
At the same time, he confirmed a “massive attack on Ukrainian military command systems and related defence, communication, energy and military facilities”.
The attacks come just after Russia ignored a Western-imposed price cap on its oil exports, warning the move would not impact its military campaign in Ukraine.
The $60-a-barrel cap agreed by the European Union, G7 and Australia aims to restrict Russia’s revenue while ensuring Moscow continues to supply the global market.
“The Russian economy has all the potential to fully meet the needs and requirements of the special military operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, using Moscow’s term for its offensive in Ukraine.
“These measures will not affect that,” he said.
Russia “will not recognize” the measures, which were “a step towards destabilizing global energy markets”, he added.
The market price for a barrel of Russian Urals crude is currently around $65, slightly above the $60 cap, suggesting the measure may have only a limited impact in the short term.
The cap is the latest in a series of measures by Western countries introduced against Russia – the world’s second largest exporter of crude oil – after Moscow sent troops to Ukraine more than nine months ago.
It comes on top of an EU embargo on maritime deliveries of Russian crude oil that came into effect on Monday.
The embargo will prevent maritime shipments of Russian crude to the European Union, which accounts for two-thirds of the bloc’s oil imports from Russia, potentially depriving Moscow of billions of euros.
Kyiv initially welcomed the price cap but later said it would not do enough damage to Russia’s economy.
Meanwhile, Russian state media released footage of President Vladimir Putin driving a Mercedes car across the Crimean Bridge – the closest the 70-year-old leader has come to the front line in Ukraine.
The bridge connects the annexed peninsula to the Russian mainland and was damaged by an explosion in October.
– ‘Unable to prepare’ – G7 countries – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – as well as Australia have said they were prepared to adjust the oil price cap if necessary.
In recent months, gas prices have soared since Moscow halted deliveries to the EU in alleged retaliation for Western sanctions and the bloc struggled to find alternative energy suppliers.
In the Ukrainian town of Borodianka outside Kyiv, where snow has already covered the ground, residents have recently gathered around wood-burning stoves inside tents to keep warm and cook during blackouts.
“We are totally dependent on electricity… One day we had no electricity for 16 hours,” Irina, who had come to the tent with her child, told AFP.
Volunteer Oleg said it was hard to say how Ukraine would fare in the coming winter months.
“It’s impossible to prepare for this winter because no one has lived in these conditions before,” he said.


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