Russian shelling has cut off power in parts of the recently liberated Ukrainian city of Kherson, days after it was retaken, amid Moscow’s drive to destroy key civilian infrastructure as freezing weather sets in.
In Kyiv, mayor Vitali Klitschko warned the capital’s millions of residents they should stock up on water and preserved food to see them through a winter that could prove miserable if more energy infrastructure is damaged.
He also urged people to consider leaving the city to stay with friends or family elsewhere, if possible.
“Trying months lie ahead. The enemy still possesses substantial resources,” defense minister Oleksiy Reznikov said, but he added that “signs are accumulating that (Russia) needs a pause at all costs”.
Ukraine’s presidential office said on Thursday that at least two civilians had been killed and six wounded nationwide by the latest Russian shelling.
In Kherson, a 70-year-old woman was killed in her apartment and a 64-year-old man was wounded on the street. A 15-year-old boy died when a hospital in the north-eastern town of Bilopillia was hit, the presidential office said.
Local authorities said about two-thirds of Kherson had electricity on Thursday night. Some residents congregated at the railway station or at government-supported tents that provided heating, food, drinks and electricity to charge phones.
In the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region, Russian forces fired “from evening till morning” at Ukrainian-held towns facing the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant across the Dnieper River, the regional governor said.
“Eight shelling attacks per night. The Russians from evening till morning struck the Nikopol area with (multiple rocket launchers) and heavy artillery. Two districts – Marhanets and Chervonohryhorivka – came under enemy fire,” governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote.
Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, Russian forces continued their attempts to encircle the Donetsk region city of Bakhmut, focusing on several villages around it and trying to cut a key highway.
Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said Russia released 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war and Ukraine turned over the same number on Thursday as the fighting continued.
“But we should not underestimate Russia,” he warned in a speech at the Berlin Security Conference. “Russian missiles and drones continue to rain down on Ukrainian cities, civilians and critical infrastructure, causing enormous human suffering as winter sets in.”
The Nato chief said Russian President Vladimir Putin had made “two big strategic mistakes” when he invaded Ukraine in February: underestimating Ukraine and underestimating the support Nato and its allies were willing to provide so the country could defend itself.
In a related development, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday condemned a European Union proposal, issued the previous day, to set up a UN-backed court to investigate possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
“As for attempts to establish some kind of tribunals, they will not have any legitimacy and will not be accepted by us. They will be condemned by us,” he said during a media briefing.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in a video message on Wednesday that the EU would work with international partners to get “the broadest international support possible” for the proposed war crimes court while continuing to support the International Criminal Court.
Neither Russia nor Ukraine are among the ICC’s 123 member states.