Kyiv at risk of ‘complete power shutdown’ as Russia pounds Ukraine’s infrastructure

Kyiv city centre was plunged into darkness last month  (REUTERS)
Kyiv city centre was plunged into darkness last month (REUTERS)

Waves of Russian missile strikes have destroyed almost half of Ukraine’s energy system, with authorities warning that the capital is at risk of a complete electricity shutdown.

With temperatures falling and the capital Kyiv seeing its first winter snow, authorities were working to restore power nationwide after some of the heaviest bombardment of Ukrainian infrastructure since Russia’s invasion began.

The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian disaster in Ukraine this winter due to power and water shortages.

“Unfortunately Russia continues to carry out missile strikes on Ukraine’s civilian and critical infrastructure. Almost half of our energy system is disabled,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Friday.

He was speaking at a joint news conference with a vice-president of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, who offered Ukraine the 27-nation bloc’s “unwavering support” and condemned Russia’s “brutal war” on its neighbour.

Engineers have been racing to repair the power grid in Kyiv.

“We are preparing for different scenarios, including a complete shutdown,” Mykola Povoroznyk, deputy head of the Kyiv city administration, said in televised comments.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said earlier about 10 million people were currently without power in a country with a pre-war population of about 44 million. He said authorities in some areas ordered forced emergency blackouts.

“The aggressor country has officially recognised that its goal is to destroy our energy infrastructure and leave Ukrainians without electricity and heat,” Ukraine’s national grid operator Ukrenergo said.

It said Russia had launched six large-scale missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in October and November.

Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had used long-range weapons on Thursday to strike defence and industrial facilities, including “missile manufacturing facilities”.

Meanwhile a new report from Yale University suggests hundreds of people were detained or went missing in Ukraine’s Kherson region while it was under Russian control this year.

The report, backed by the US State Department, documents detentions and disappearances of 226 people in Kherson between March and October, a quarter of whom were allegedly tortured and five of whom died in custody or shortly after.

Russia last week pulled its troops out of an area on the west bank of the Dnipro River in Ukraine, which includes Kherson, the only regional capital it had captured since the February invasion.

The Humanitarian Research Lab at the Yale School of Public Health that produced the report is a partner in a State Department-funded program called the Conflict Observatory, launched in May to capture and analyze evidence of war crimes and other possible atrocities perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine.

Russia denies its troops target civilians or have committed atrocities.