Kyiv, Ukraine (AFP) – Russia attacked power plants and other infrastructure on Sunday, causing widespread outages across Ukraine as Kievan forces pressed into a swift counterattack that pushed Moscow’s forces out of previously occupied areas in the northeast.
The bombing started a massive fire at a power station in the western outskirts of Kharkiv and killed at least one person. President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced “deliberate and cynical missile strikes” against civilian targets as terrorist acts.
It appeared that Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, went out of power on Sunday night. Cars drove through the dark streets, and few pedestrians used flashlights or cell phones to light their way.
Separately, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the Russian-occupied south was completely shut down in an effort to prevent a radiological disaster as fighting raged nearby.
Kyiv’s move in recent days to retake Russian-occupied areas in the Kharkiv region has forced Moscow to withdraw its forces to prevent an encirclement, leaving large numbers of weapons and munitions behind on a hasty flight as the war marked its 200th day on Sunday..
Ukraine’s army chief, General Valery Zalogny, said his forces had recaptured about 3,000 square kilometers (1,160 square miles) since the counter-offensive began in early September. He said Ukrainian forces were only 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) from the Russian border.
One battalion shared a video of Ukrainian troops in front of the town hall in Hoptivka, a village about a mile from the border and about 19 kilometers (12 miles) north of Kharkiv.
Kharkiv Governor Oleh Sinihopov said that Ukrainian forces have regained control of more than 40 settlements in the area.
In the missile attacks by Russia on Sunday night, the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions appeared to bear the brunt. Zelensky said that Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya and Sumy only partially lost power.
Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov described the blackout as “a revenge for the Russian aggressor for the successes of our army at the front, especially in the Kharkiv region.”
Ukrainian officials said Russia had bombed the Kharkiv TEC-5, the country’s second largest thermal and generating station, and Zelensky posted a video of the Kharkiv Power Plant burning.
Russian terrorists are still terrorists and attack critical infrastructure. There are no military installations, only the goal is to leave people without light and heat,” he tweeted,
But Zelensky remained defiant despite the attacks. Addressing Russia, he added: “Do you still think that you can frighten us, break us, force us to make concessions? … Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst for us are not as frightening and deadly as ‘your friendship and brothers’. But history will put everything in its rightful place. And we will be with gas. And lights, water, food… and without you!”
Later in the evening, some energy was restored in some areas. None of the outages were thought to be related to the reactor shutdown at the Zaporizhzhia plant.
While most attention has focused on the counterattack, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator said the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, was reconnected to Ukraine’s power grid, allowing engineers to shut down its last operational reactor. To protect him in the middle of the fight.
The station, one of the ten largest atomic power stations in the world, has been occupied by Russian forces since the early days of the war. Ukraine and Russia traded blame for the bombing around them.
Since a Sept. 5 fire from the bombing disrupted the plant’s transmission lines, the reactor has been operating essential safety equipment in so-called “island mode” – an unreliable system that has left the plant increasingly vulnerable to a potential nuclear accident.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency that has two experts on site, welcomed the recovery of external energy. But the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said he was “extremely concerned about the situation at the plant, which remains in danger as long as any bombing continues.”
He said that discussions had begun regarding the establishment of a security and security zone around it.
In a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron urged the withdrawal of Russian troops and weapons from the station in line with the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The withdrawal of Russian forces in recent days represents the biggest field success for Ukrainian forces since they thwarted a Russian attempt to seize Kyiv near the start of the war. The Kharkiv campaign seemed to have caught Moscow by surprise. It had moved many of its forces from the area to the south awaiting a counterattack there.
Yuri Kochevenko, of the 95th Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, tweeted a video of what appeared to be the center of Izyum. The city was considered an important command and supply center for the Northern Front of Russia.
“Everything around us has been destroyed, but we will restore everything. It was, is and will be Ukraine,” Kochevenko said in his video, which shows the empty central square and destroyed buildings.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian General Staff said that Russian forces have also left several settlements in the Kherson region, in the southern part of the country, while Kyiv’s forces are pressing a counterattack. The regions were not specified.
But the official in the Russian-backed administration in Kherson, Kirill Strimosov, said on social media that the city north of Crimea was safe and called on everyone to calm down.
The Russian Defense Ministry said, on Saturday, that the withdrawal from Izyum and other regions is aimed at strengthening Moscow’s forces in the neighboring Donetsk region to the south. The explanation was similar to the way Russia justified its withdrawal from Kyiv earlier this year.
But Igor Strelkov, who commanded Russian-backed forces when the separatist conflict erupted in Donbass in 2014, mocked the Russian Defense Ministry’s explanation for the retreat, stating that the handover of Russian territory near the border was a “contributory to a Ukrainian settlement.”
The withdrawal infuriated Russian military bloggers and nationalist commentators, who complained of it as a major defeat and urged the Kremlin to intensify its war effort. Many have criticized Russian authorities for continuing fireworks and other lavish celebrations in Moscow, which falls on holiday in the city on Saturday, despite the disaster in Ukraine.
In Moscow, Putin attended the opening of a huge Ferris wheel in a park on Saturday, inaugurating a new transportation line and a sports arena. This action highlighted the Kremlin’s narrative that the war, which it calls a “special military operation,” was going according to plan without affecting Russians’ daily lives.
Pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov criticized the Moscow celebrations as a huge mistake.
“Fireworks in Moscow on a tragic day of Russia’s military defeat will have very serious political consequences,” Markov wrote on his channel on the messaging app. “The authorities should not celebrate when people are in mourning.”
In a sign of a potential rift in the Russian leadership, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed president of Chechnya, said the retreat was caused by grave mistakes by Russian leaders.
“They made mistakes and I think they will draw the necessary conclusions,” Kadyrov said. “If they do not make changes in the strategy of conducting the special military operation in the next day or two, I will have to contact the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and the leadership of the country to explain the real situation on the ground.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and NATO chief warned on Friday that the war would likely drag on for months, urging the West to continue supporting Ukraine through a potentially difficult winter.
Daniel Fried, a former US ambassador to Poland who is now a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said Ukraine’s battlefield gains will help the Biden administration’s quest for continued financial support for the war effort from Congress and Western allies.
“The policy of the Biden administration is evolving in a more and more justified direction,” Freed said.
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