Ukraine war: Putin meets soldiers' mothers; Kherson strikes; and half of Kyiv without power

1. Barrage of missiles hits recently liberated Kherson

Russian missile strikes have damaged a hospital in Zaporizhzhia, according to the region’s governor, Oleksandr Starukh.

Starukh wrote on Telegram that no one was injured but "the same cannot be said about the building".

The attacks come after Russia’s latest barrage shut down all of Ukraine’s nuclear plants – including Europe's largest located in Zaporizhzhia – for the first time in 40 years.

The vast plant in Russian-held territory was reconnected on Thursday, Ukrainian nuclear power company Energoatom said.

A barrage of missiles late also struck the recently liberated city of Kherson, killing four people and injuring at least 10 others, according to the Ukrainian army.

Soldiers in the region had warned that Kherson would face intensified strikes as Russian troops dig in across the Dnieper River.

"This is the revenge of those who lost," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday.

"They do not know how to fight. The only thing they can still do is terrorise. Either energy terror, or artillery terror, or missile terror -- that's all that Russia has stooped down to under its current leaders."

Ukrainian officials also reported that seven people were killed and 30 wounded in shelling in Vychgorod.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said there would be no lasting peace in Ukraine if Russia won the war, adding that the Western military alliance would not back down its support for Kyiv.

“NATO will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. We will not back down,” Stoltenberg said on Friday.

NATO foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Romania next week to discuss countries providing air defence systems and other weapons to Ukraine.

2. Half of Kyiv's residents are still without power

The mayor of Kyiv says that nearly 50% of the city's residents were still without power on Friday, two days after Russian strikes.

The Ukrainian capital was one of many cities and infrastructure sites targeted by a barrage of Russian rockets on Wednesday.

Officials say ten people were killed while millions of Ukrainians had spent Thursday without electricity or water.

"A third of Kyiv's homes already have heating, specialists are still restoring it in the capital," Vitali Klitschko wrote on Telegram.

"Half of the consumers are still without electricity," he added, with temperatures approaching zero degrees Celsius.

"In the course of the day, the energy companies plan to connect electricity for all consumers on a rotating basis."

In Kharkiv, the country's second-largest city, supplies were restored after "very difficult" work, according to mayor Igor Terekhov, but more than 100,000 in the outlying region continued to see interruptions, the regional governor said.

In the south, authorities in the city of Mykolayiv said that running water was set to start flowing again after supplies were cut off on Thursday.

Volodymyr Kudrytsky, chairman of the board of the national electricity operator Ukrenergo, said Ukraine's energy system had now "passed the most difficult stage" after Wednesday's attacks.

Electricity is partially restored in the regions and "the energy system is connected to the European Union's energy system again", he wrote on Facebook.

President Zelenskyy said the rocket attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure were a "crime against humanity".

Moscow says the aim of its missile strikes is to weaken Ukraine's ability to fight and push it to negotiate. Russia has always denied targeting civilians and claimed that damage in Kyiv on Wednesday was caused by "Ukrainian and foreign" anti-aircraft missiles.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the country's strikes were "in response to the unbridled flow of weapons to Ukraine and the reckless appeals of Kyiv to defeat Russia."

Meanwhile, UN human rights chief Volker Turk said on Thursday that Russian strikes had killed at least 77 civilians since October.

"Millions are being plunged into extreme hardship and appalling conditions of life by these strikes," Turk said in a statement.

3. Europe must remain united, says Zelenskyy

Ukraine's President Zelenskyy has called on Europe to avoid division and to severely limit the price of Russian oil.

In an address on Thursday, Zelenskyy called on Europeans to "stand against Russian aggression".

"There is no split, there is no schism among Europeans and we have to preserve this. This is our mission number one this year," he said.

"Europe is helping itself. It's not helping Ukraine to stand against Russia, this is helping Europe to stand against Russian aggression".

Zelenskyy also called on the EU leaders to settle on a cap on Russian oil prices at the lowest amount of $30 (€29). as the bloc remained split over the matter.

"The price cuts are very important. We hear about [proposals to set the cap per barrel at] $60 (€58) or $70 (€67). Such words sound more like a concession [to Russia]", Zelesnkyy said.

"But I'm very grateful to our Baltic and Polish colleagues for their proposals, quite reasonable ones, to set this camp at $30 (€29) per barrel. It's a much better idea", he added.

The EU states failed to reach a deal on the price level for Russian sea-borne oil on Wednesday because a Group of Seven nations proposal for a cap was seen as far too high by some and too low by others.

Ukraine's Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko has also said more Western support is needed to help it meet its growing reconstruction costs following this week's escalation of Russian missile attacks.

On Friday, European officials pledged to send more support that will mitigate the Russian military’s efforts.

France is sending 100 high-powered generators to Ukraine to help people get through the coming months, according to Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who visited Kyiv on Friday, said a promised £50 million (€58 million) air-defence package would help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s bombardments.

Ukrainian authorities are also opening 4,400 so-called “points of invincibility” — heated and powered spaces offering hot meals, electricity, and internet connections.

Alexander Shcherbak, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with mothers of Russian military personnel in Ukraine. - Alexander Shcherbak, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

4. 'We share your pain,' Putin tells mothers of Russian soldiers

Vladimir Putin has met more than a dozen mothers of soldiers fighting in Ukraine, saying he shares their suffering.

The Russian president welcomed 17 women to his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow ahead of Russian Mother's Day on Sunday.

Putin said he understood the anxiety and concern of soldiers' mothers and the pain of those who had lost sons in Ukraine.

"I would like you to know that, that I personally, and the whole leadership of the country, we share your pain," Putin said.

Hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers have been sent to Ukraine, including some of the 300,000 reservists who were called up as part of Putin's "partial mobilisation" in September.

According to the United Nations, the war in Ukraine has killed and wounded tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides.

Ukraine does not disclose its losses. Russia last publicly disclosed its losses on 21 September, when Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed. But that number is far below most international estimates.

The United States' top general has estimated that Russia and Ukraine had each seen more than 100,000 of their soldiers killed or wounded.

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) said on Thursday that over 15,000 Ukrainian people have gone missing during the war.

Putin has said he has no regrets about launching what he calls Russia's "special military operation" against Ukraine.

The Russian President also appeared to urge the soldiers' mothers to distrust what they might read online about the war.

"You can't trust anything there at all, there are all sorts of fakes, deception, lies," Putin said.

But Olga Tsukanova, the founder of Russia's Council of Mothers and Wives, has accused Putin of excluding members of the organisation from Friday's meeting.

In a recorded video address, Tsukanova demanded that the president should meet with "real mothers" of those who serve in the country's army as opposed to the women "hand-picked" by the Kremlin for the event.

5. Brothers go on trial in Sweden on suspicion of spying for Russia

Two Iranian-born brothers, including a former employee of Sweden's security police and armed forces, have gone on trial on suspicion of spying for Russia for a decade.

Prosecutors say the men had passed on information about Sweden's intelligence and security system to Russia's military intelligence agency (GRU) from 2011 to 2021.

One suspect is also charged with gross unauthorised handling of secret information, according to the prosecution.

The brothers, aged 42 and 35, were detained last year and have previously denied all allegations. They face life imprisonment if convicted.

The trial is expected to mostly take place behind closed doors due to national security concerns.

"It is an unusual trial in that a similar case has not appeared in Sweden in over 20 years," prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist told the court.

Sweden hopes to soon join the Western military NATO alliance amid rising security concerns following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In a separate case, two people were arrested by Swedish police in Stockholm on Tuesday on suspicion of espionage.

One of the suspects has since been released from custody.