Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of “energy terrorism” after Moscow’s repeated attacks on key infrastructure knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of people.
About 450,000 households across Kyiv were without electricity on Friday as power outages across the country continue, according to the city’s mayor Vitalii Klitschko. “It is one and a half times more than the recent days,” Klitschko said on Telegram.
Across the country, about 4.5 million consumers were temporarily disconnected from the power supply on Thursday under emergency and stabilization schedules, according to Zelensky.
The outages follow dire warnings about a cold and difficult winter ahead for those staying in the country, after weeks of Russian airstrikes and rocket attacks on Ukraine’s power grid .
Russian President Vladimir Putin attempted to alleviate such fears and said Friday that Moscow would “continue to treat the Ukrainian people with respect and warmth. This is how it was and is, despite today’s tragic confrontation.”
“A clash with neo-Nazis was inevitable, brought to the point where the situation has become deadly for Russia,” Putin added.
But this week alone, attacks on critical infrastructure in the regions of Kyiv, Cherkasy, Kirovohrad, Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia have left millions without electricity and water intermittently.
“The very fact that Russia has resorted to terror against the energy sector indicates the weakness of the enemy. They cannot defeat Ukraine on the battlefield and therefore they are trying to break our people in this way,” Zelensky said during his nightly address.
Russia’s recurrent aerial attacks have dragged cities in central and western Ukraine back to the forefront of the war, leaving residents in the capital struggling to keep businesses running, along with water and other resources.
Ukraine’s national power supply company, Ukrenergo, said earlier this week that several regions will face extended power cuts as they try to repair damage caused by recent strikes.
The G7 group of wealthy nations will coordinate their support for Ukraine as winter approaches the conflict-torn country, German Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said Thursday, ahead of a meeting of the group’s foreign ministers in the western German city of Muenster.
”We will not allow the brutality of the war to lead to the death of lots of elderly people, children, teenagers and families to die from hunger or cold over the upcoming winter months due to the brutal tactics of the Russian president,” Baerbock told reporters.
The Ukrainian military says that Russian forces have meanwhile stepped up air attacks near the eastern frontlines, using multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), especially in Donetsk region.
The military’s General Staff said 80 such attacks were recorded Wednesday, while on Thursday “the enemy carried out four missile and 28 air strikes, and fired more than 45 times from MLRS.”
Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the overall commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, said that during a conversation on Thursday with General Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, he noted that “the enemy tripled the intensity of hostilities on certain areas of the front – up to 80 attacks daily.”
Russian forces and “collaborators” also began a census in the city of Enerhodar, which is next to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to Ukrainian officials.
Dmytro Orlov, the displaced mayor of Enerhodar, said “they are doing it in their typical manner, by force since one cannot decline participation in the ‘census’.”
“For the second day now, the ruscists along with collaborators with the so-called police are doing the door-to-door tours and intercepting people in the courtyards. This was reported by local residents who had to participate in the ‘census’,” Orlov claimed.
“In many cases the census ends up with a rummage and browsing through the apps of mobile phones. Please be aware!” he said. The pre-war population of the city was about 50,000. It has been under Russian occupation since early March.
The state company that runs the nuclear plant, Energoatom, reported Thursday that further Russian shelling some 50 kilometers from the plant had disabled two high voltage transmission lines, and that the power plant had gone to “full black-out mode. All 20 diesel generators started operating.” The plant is run by Ukrainian technicians but is under the control of the Russian state operator Rusatom.
Further south, social media video and local Telegram channels indicated explosions near an airfield just north of Kherson city, in an area occupied by Russian forces.
The video showed a large plume of black smoke rising from the area of Chornobaivka.
Ukrainian troops and Russian-appointed officials in the area have not officially commented on the footage.
On the east bank of the Dnipro river further north, unofficial Telegram channels say that Russian forces are forcing local people to leave the village of Velyka Lepetykha. Russian-backed authorities have already announced an evacuation of civilians from a 15-kilometer zone along the river as they create new defenses in the area.
Those same channels say a mandatory evacuation is also underway in the village of Hornostayivka further downstream, while new explosions have been heard in the town of Nova Kakhovka, also on the east bank and close to a dam and hydro electric plant on the river.
Humanitarian bodies have said such a strategy could constitute human rights violations.
CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva, Jennifer Hauser and Uliana Pavlova contributed reporting.