Ukrainians suffer in cold, darkness as Zelensky implores UN Security Council to punish Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is demanding that the United Nations punish Russia for air strikes on civilian infrastructure, after a missile barrage that has plunged cities into freezing darkness.

With temperatures falling below 0 degrees Celsius, authorities were working on Thursday to get the lights and heat back on.

Russia’s latest missile strikes killed 10 people and shut down all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants for the first time in 40 years.

Regional authorities in Kyiv said power had been restored to three-quarters of the capital by Thursday morning and water was working again in some areas.

Transport was back up and running in the city, with buses replacing electric trams.

Authorities hoped to restart the three nuclear power plants in Ukrainian-held territory by the end of the day.

Since early October, Russia has launched major strikes around once a week at energy targets across Ukraine, each time firing hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of missiles to knock out Ukraine’s power grid.

Moscow acknowledges attacking basic infrastructure, saying its aim is to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight and to push it to negotiate.

Kyiv says the attacks are clearly intended to harm civilians, making them a war crime.

“Today is just one day, but we have received 70 missiles. That’s the Russian formula of terror,” Mr. Zelenskyy told the UN Security Council chamber via video link overnight.

“This is all against our energy infrastructure.

Woman crying outside home damaged in air strikes.
Ukraine says Russia’s recent attacks on infrastructure sites are clearly intended to harm civilians.

(AP: Efrem Lukatsky)

“Hospitals, schools, transport, residential districts all suffered.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed Kyiv for Ukrainians’ suffering, saying it had refused to yield to Moscow’s demands, which he did not spell out.

Ukraine says it will only stop fighting when all Russian forces have left.

“What is there to talk about? I think that the first step should come from them,” 27-year-old Olena Shafinska said while queuing at a water pump in a park in central Kyiv.

“For starters, they have to stop shelling us.”

People queue to fill up bottles with water from the tap in the park.
Kyiv residents queue to fill up water bottles as local authorities work to restore water infrastructure.(Reuters: Valentyn Ogirenko)

For the first time, the Russian attacks forced Kyiv to switch off the three nuclear power plants it still controls. The fourth, in Russian-held territory, also had to activate backup diesel power.

Nuclear officials say interruptions in power can disrupt cooling systems and cause an atomic disaster.

“There is a real danger of a nuclear and radiation catastrophe being caused by firing on the entire territory of Ukraine with Russian cruise and ballistic missiles,” Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom, said.

“Russia must answer for this shameful crime.”

Kyiv residents charge their devices and warm up inside the tent.
Kyiv residents charge their devices, connect to the internet and warm up inside invincibility hubs.(Reuters: Valentyn Ogirenko)

US says Putin ‘weaponising winter’

Winter has arrived abruptly in Ukraine and temperatures have fallen well below freezing in the capital, a city of 3 million people.

US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “clearly weaponising winter to inflict immense suffering on the Ukrainian people”.

The Russian president “will try to freeze the country into submission”, she said.

There was no prospect of action from the UN Security Council, where Russia wields a veto.

Moscow’s UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, said it was against council rules for Mr. Zelenskyy to appear via video, and rejected what he called “reckless threats and ultimatums” by Ukraine and its supporters in the West.

He blamed damage to Ukrainian infrastructure on Ukraine’s air-defense missiles and said the West should stop supplying them.

Local residents stand near apartment buildings destroyed by shelling.
Residents in the town of Vyshhorod, near Kyiv, stand near their residential building destroyed by recent Russian missile attacks.(Reuters: Gleb Garanich)

Ukrainian authorities said three apartment blocks were hit on Wednesday, killing 10 people.

“Our little one was sleeping. Two years old. She was sleeping, she got covered,” said a man who gave his name as Fyodr, dragging a suitcase as he walked away from a smoldering apartment building hit in Kyiv.

“She is alive, thanks be to God.”

Also in the capital, performers and staff members of the Kyiv National Academic Operetta Theater tearfully bid farewell to 26-year-old ballet dancer Vadym Khlupianets who was killed fighting Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

Winter to test both sides in war

The war’s first winter will test whether Ukraine can press on with its campaign to recapture territory, and whether Russia’s commanders can keep their invasion forces supplied and find a way to halt Kyiv’s momentum.

Having retreated, Russia has a far shorter line to defend to hold on to seized lands, with more than a third of the front now blocked off by the Dnipro River.

“Ukraine will slowly grow in capabilities, but a continued maneuver east of the Dnipro River and into Russian-occupied Donbas will prove to be much tougher fights,” Mark Hertling, a former commander of US ground forces in Europe, wrote on Twitter.

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