Ukrainian officials are warning that Russia is preparing to unleash a new wave of strikes, even as utility crews work to restore power supplies devastated by recent bombardments and as increasingly frigid weather presents new challenges on the battlefield.
Natalia Humeniuk, the spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military’s southern command, said on Monday that Ukraine had received intelligence reports suggesting that Russia is planning to launch another wave of missiles at energy infrastructure targets this week, perhaps from a missile carrier in the Black Sea.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine warned Ukrainians that the week ahead could be as difficult as the last, and urged people to heed any air alert sirens. In his nightly address late Sunday, he said that together the nation would overcome “Russia’s attempt to use the cold against people.”
“We understand that terrorists are preparing new strikes. We know that for sure,” he said. “And as long as they have missiles, they won’t stop, unfortunately.”
The pleas highlighted the growing concerns in Ukraine and among its allies that even as its forces gain ground on the battlefield, the onset of winter will bring new difficulties. Muddy, cold conditions could slow the progress of Ukrainian troops trying to recapture territory in the east and south, although they will also challenge the Russians. At the same time, Russia’s strategy of attacking Ukrainian infrastructure from the air could make life miserable for civilians far from the front lines and increase pressure on Mr. Zelensky’s government.
The state energy company, Ukrenergo, said on Sunday that there was enough electricity to cover 80 percent of the country’s consumption needs because nuclear power stations, disconnected from the national grid by massive Russian strikes last week, had been brought back online. But it urged Ukrainians to continue conserving electricity to avoid overwhelming a national grid that has been weakened by repeated barrages of Russian missiles and drones.
Ukraine’s allies, whose military hardware has helped shift the war’s momentum, are accelerating their efforts to help Kyiv prepare for more disruptions to its power supply. The European Union announced over the weekend that it would deliver to Ukraine 40 generators, each capable of powering a hospital, as well as 200 transformers, according to a statement by the European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen. The United States said it has also provided generators, and Canada said it had allocated money for the same purpose.
For some Ukrainians, the switch to generator power carried its own risks. The chief of police of the Kyiv region, Andriy Nebytov, said that in the village of Bobrytsia, a man died and his wife was hospitalized because of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator placed in their living room. He said that in another village in the region, Hostomel, four members of one family were also hospitalized because of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Moscow has escalated its attacks on Ukraine’s energy system over the past several weeks as its troops have been forced to retreat from territory they had seized.
Since Ukraine reclaimed the southern city of Kherson on Nov. 11, neither side has recorded significant advances on the battlefield.
But military analysts say that another, perhaps more significant, factor is that Russian forces retreated from Kherson to the eastern side of the Dnipro River, which bisects Ukraine and now provides a natural barrier.
Cassandra Vinograd and Marc Santora contributed reporting.
The New York Times – [source]