Ukraine’s power, water supplies under Russian attack again
Oct 18, 2022, 1:00 AM | Updated: 1:45 pm
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Airstrikes cut power and water supplies to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians on Tuesday, part of what the country’s president called an expanding Russian campaign to drive the nation into the cold and dark and make peace talks impossible.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said nearly one-third of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed in the past week, “causing massive blackouts across the country.”
“No space left for negotiations with Putin’s regime,” he tweeted.
Depriving people of water, electricity and heat as winter begins to bite and the broadening use of so-called suicide drones that nosedive into targets have opened a new phase in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war. The bombardments appear aimed at wearing down the notable resilience Ukrainians have shown in the nearly eight months since Moscow invaded.
Even far from front lines, basic utilities are no longer certainties, with daily strikes reaching far into the country and damaging key facilities, sometimes faster than they can be repaired.
The latest city shorn of power was Zhytomyr, home to military bases, industries and leafy boulevards, about 140 kilometers (85 miles) west of Kyiv. The mayor said the whole city of 250,000 lost power and also water initially. Repairs quickly reconnected some homes but 150,000 people were still without electricity hours after the morning strike, regional authorities said.
Pavlo Raboschuk, a 33-year-old computer repairman in Zhytomyr, fumed over the attack that sent smoke billowing skyward. Only small shops that could get by without electricity were open on his route to work, he said.
“Only swear words come to mind,” he said. He added that he’s bracing “for a tough and dark winter,” with dehydrated foods, warm clothes and batteries already stockpiled at home.
City hospitals switched to backup power after the double missile strike Tuesday on an energy facility, said Mayor Serhiy Sukhomlyn.
In the capital of Kyiv, missile strikes damaged two power facilities and killed two people, city authorities said. The attack left 50,000 people without power for a few hours, the facilities’ operator said.
Missiles also severely damaged an energy facility in the south-central city of Dnipro. Some homes lost power but the operator couldn’t immediately say how many.
Russia is also mixing up its modes of attack.
Suicide drones set ablaze an infrastructure facility in the partly Russian-occupied southern Zaporizhzhia region, the regional governor said.
Air-defense S-300 missiles, which Russia has been repurposing as ground-attack weapons as its stocks diminish, were used to strike the southern city of Mykolaiv. The body of a man was found in the debris of a building, the governor said.
In the eastern city of Kharkiv, eight rockets fired from across the nearby border with Russia hit an industrial area, the regional governor said.
In Zhytomyr, school director Iryna Kolodzynska had students back at their desks within 30 minutes of the air raid all-clear. Without power for their computers, they used the class board to work on math equations.
“We must not break down,” she said. “There are regions that suffered much more from the war than we did.”
Waves of the explosives-laden suicide drones also struck Kyiv on Monday, hitting energy facilities and setting ablaze and partly collapsing buildings. One drone slammed into a residential building, killing four people.
Ukraine says Russia is getting thousands of drones from Iran. The Iranian-made Shahed drones that hit targets in Kyiv have also been widely used elsewhere in recent weeks.
An Associated Press photographer caught one of the Iranian drones on camera Monday, its triangle-shaped wing and pointed warhead clearly visible, though the Kremlin refused to confirm their use.
In the past week alone, more than 100 self-destructing Iranian-made drones have slammed into power plants, sewage treatment plants, residential buildings, bridges and other targets in urban areas, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said.
A Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence, said Russia is pursuing a strategy of “attempting to destroy Ukraine’s electricity network” with long-range strikes that are causing civilian casualties rather than degrading its military.
The official said the Iranian drones “are playing an increasingly significant role, although we can see that Ukraine is effectively neutralizing many of them before they hit their targets.”
In a televised address on Monday night, Zelenskyy said Russia is using the drones because it is losing ground in the war.
“Russia doesn’t have any chance on the battlefield, and it tries to compensate for its military defeats with terror,” he said. “Why this terror? To put pressure on us, on Europe, on the entire world.”
Zelenskyy’s tweet ruling out talks with Putin wasn’t the first time he’s said that he won’t negotiate with the Russian leader. Russia and Ukraine held several rounds of talks in the first month after Moscow’s invasion but they fell apart. The Kremlin has said talks could only be possible if Ukraine meets Russian demands and accepts its land-grabs of Ukrainian territory. Ukraine has flatly ruled out talks on those terms
In other developments:
— Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator said Russian forces have detained two more senior employees at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Energoatom said their whereabouts are unknown. Also unknown are the whereabouts of another executive who was detained earlier in October.
— In Russia, the death toll from Monday’s crash of a Russian warplane into a residential area rose to 15. The Su-34 bomber came down in the port city of Yeysk after one of its engines caught fire during takeoff for a training mission, the Defense Ministry said. Both crew members bailed out safely, but the plane struck a neighborhood, causing a huge blaze, officials said.
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