Zelenskiy calls for measures to preserve Ukraine's energy system

FILE PHOTO: Employees work at a thermal power plant heavily damaged by recent Russian missile strikes in Ukraine

(Reuters) - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced on Thursday a set of measures to protect Ukraine's energy system, including protection for plants coming under Russian fire and the development of alternative renewable energy sources.

"Life in Ukraine must be preserved and that includes in particular energy security," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

Russia pounded Ukraine's energy system in the first winter of the war, launched in February 2022, and renewed its assault on energy targets last March as Ukraine was running low on stocks of Western air defence missiles.

Drone and missile strikes have knocked out half of energy generating capacity since March, according to official accounts.

Attacks overnight on Thursday hit four regions and cut power to more than 218,000 consumers, the Energy Ministry said.

Zelenskiy outlined plans to minimise the effects of such attacks, including a programme of developing solar energy and energy storage facilities and a schedule for critical infrastructure sites to come up with alternative energy sources.

The work, he said, must be completed before winter and the increased energy demand associated with the change in seasons.

Zelenskiy said the government would "continue to work on creating new energy generation and new decentralised energy capacities". Also planned was "the construction of new balanced and manoeuvrable capacities for energy".

"This process is quite challenging in wartime conditions, but we must implement it just as we have already implemented many difficulty projects," he said.

And work was proceeding, Zelenskiy said, on measures to protect existing energy sites.

Russia says energy infrastructure is a legitimate military target and denies targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure.

(Reporting by Rob Popeski and Bogdan Kochubey; Editing by Alex Richardson)