KYIV – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that Russia be punished for air strikes on civilian infrastructure, following a missile barrage that plunged cities into freezing darkness, causing the worst nationwide power outages in history.
Authorities were working on Thursday to turn back on the lights and heat as temperatures dropped below zero. Russia’s latest missile barrage killed ten people and forced Ukraine’s nuclear power plants to shut down for the first time in 40 years.
By Thursday morning, regional authorities in Kyiv reported that power had been restored to three-quarters of the capital and water had been restored in some areas. The city’s transportation system was restored, with buses replacing electric trams.
The three nuclear power plants in Ukrainian-held territory were expected to be restarted by the end of the day.
Since early October, Russia has launched massive air strikes on energy targets across Ukraine, each time firing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of missiles in an attempt to knock out Ukraine’s power grid.
Moscow admits to attacking basic infrastructure, claiming that its goal is to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight and force it to negotiate. According to Kyiv, such attacks are clearly intended to cause harm to civilians, making them a war crime.
“We only have one day, but we have received 70 missiles.” That is the Russian terror formula. “This is all directed at our energy infrastructure,” Zelensky said via video link to the UN Security Council chamber overnight. “Hospitals, schools, transportation, and residential areas all suffered.”
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said it was Kyiv’s fault Ukrainians were suffering because it refused to yield to Moscow’s demands, which he did not specify. Ukraine has stated that it will cease fighting only when all Russian forces have left.
“What is there to discuss?” I believe they should take the first step. “First and foremost, they must stop shelling us,” Olena Shafinska, 27, said as she stood in line with a group of friends at a water pump in a park in central Kyiv.
The Russian attacks forced Kyiv to turn off the three nuclear power plants it still controls for the first time. The fourth, in Russian-controlled territory, had to activate backup diesel power as well. Power outages, according to nuclear officials, can disrupt cooling systems and lead to an atomic disaster.
“There is a real danger of a nuclear and radiation catastrophe being caused by firing Russian cruise and ballistic missiles on the entire territory of Ukraine,” said Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom.
“Russia must account for this heinous crime.”