Ukraine: Blackouts back in Kyiv as war takes multiple fronts

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian authorities on Friday announced further rolling blackouts in and around the country’s largest cities amid ongoing Russian strikes targeting energy infrastructure.

The press service of Ukrenergo, the sole operator of Ukraine’s high-voltage transmission lines, said in a statement that “emergency outages” of four hours a day or more had resumed in the Kyiv region.

The capital region’s governor, Oleksiy Kuleba, said on Telegram on Friday that residents could expect to see “tougher and longer” power outages compared to earlier in the war.

Oleg Syniehubov, the governor of the Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine, announced on Telegram that daily one-hour power outages would begin Monday across the province, including the regional capital, which is Ukraine’s second-largest city.

He said the measures “are necessary to stabilize the power grid, because the enemy continues shelling (Ukraine’s) energy infrastructure.”

Officials across the country have urged people to conserve energy by reducing their electricity consumption during peak hours and avoiding the use of high-voltage appliances.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last week said that 30% of Ukraine’s power stations had been destroyed since Russia launched the first wave of targeted infrastructure strikes on Oct. 10.

Russian missile and artillery barrages killed at least four people and wounded 10 others in 24 hours, most of them in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province, the country’s presidential office said Friday. Russian forces were gearing up for an assault on Bakhut following a string of setbacks in the east.

Russian fire struck several towns across the Dnieper River from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the presidential office said. Shelling damaged dozens of residential buildings and cut power lines in Nikopol. Power also was cut to thousands of families in the neighboring towns of Marhanets and Chervonohryhorivka.

An S-300 air defense missile destroyed a three-story administrative building and damaged a new residential building nearby, said Mykolaiv regional governor Vitalii Kim. Russian forces have frequently used converted S-300 missiles to strike ground targets in Ukraine.

While Russian forces pounded targets across Ukraine with missiles and artillery, Moscow pressed its ground advance on the cities of Bakhmut and Avdiikva, turning the entire Donetsk region into “a zone of active hostilities,” according to Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko.

“Civilians who remain in the region live in constant fear without heating and electricity,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks. “Their enemy is not only Russian cannons but also the cold.”

A Russian takeover of Bakhmut, which has remained in Ukrainian hands throughout the war, would open the way for the Kremlin to push on to other key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk.

A reinvigorated eastern offensive could also potentially stall or derail Ukraine’s push to recapture the southern city of Kherson, a gateway to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin also illegally annexed the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions. Much of the fighting since then has appeared geared toward consolidating Moscow’s control over territory that Putin has proclaimed as Russia’s in violation of international law and put under martial law.

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai reported Friday that Russian soldiers had retreated from some areas as Ukraine’s army fought to retake ground. Moscow claimed Luhansk’s complete capture in July.

“The Russians practically destroyed some villages after they started to retreat,” Haidai said. “There are a lot of freshly mobilized Russians in the Luhansk region, but they are dying in droves.” His claim could not be independently verified.

The multiple battles illustrated the breadth of the 650-kilometers (400-miles) front line on which Russia’s war in Ukraine, now in its ninth month, is being waged.

In the Zaporizhzhia region, Kremlin-appointed officials urged residents Friday not to switch to daylight savings time along with Kyiv and the rest of the country.

“The old time remains. The clocks will not go back in 2022,” the administration said in a post on its official Telegram channel.

The Russian-installed mayor of Enerhodar, where Europe’s largest nuclear power plant is located, also called on residents to ignore the time switch.

“We live in the Russian Federation, and our city lives by Moscow time,” Alexander Volga said in a video posted on Telegram.

Russia switched to permanent winter time in 2014. The move came after nationwide surveys found that citizens largely disapproved of an earlier government decision to put clocks on year-round summer time and struggled to adjust to long, dark mornings.

Meanwhile, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency plan to visit two locations where Russia alleged without citing evidence that Ukraine was building radioactive “dirty bombs.” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said Thursday inspectors are being dispatched following a written request from the Ukrainian government.

Earlier this week, Russia alleged in a letter to U.N. Security Council members that construction began on the “direct orders” of the Ukrainian government. Moscow has repeatedly made the unfounded claim that Ukraine is preparing to detonate a device that spreads radioactive waste on its own territory while trying to blame Russia.

Western officials have dismissed the claim as misinformation possibly designed as a pretext for Russia to justify its own military escalation.

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