Ukraine Battles To Reconnect Millions In The Cold And Dark

 

Ukraine battled Friday to get water and power to millions of people cut off after Russia launched dozens of cruise missiles that battered the country’s already crippled electricity grid.

The energy system in Ukraine is on the brink of collapse and millions have endured emergency blackouts over recent weeks.

The World Health Organization has warned of “life-threatening” consequences and estimated that millions could leave their homes as a result.

“The situation with electricity remains difficult in almost all regions,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday evening. “However, we are gradually moving away from blackouts — every hour we return power to new consumers.”

More than 24 hours after Russian strikes smashed Kyiv, mayor Vitali Klitschko said late Thursday that 60 percent of homes in the capital were still suffering emergency outages. Water services had been fully restored however, said city officials.

But the shelling had killed seven people at Vyshgorod, on the outskirts of the city, said Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv Regional Military Administration.

And a fresh round of strikes Thursday killed at least four people in the southern city of Kherson, recently recaptured by Ukraine, said a senior official there.

The latest attacks on the power grid come with winter setting in and temperatures in the capital hovering just above freezing.

The western region of Khmelnytsky was one of the worst affected by power outages, with just 35 percent of its normal capacity, but that was enough to connect critical infrastructure, according to Serhii Hamaliy, the head of the regional administration.

About 300,000 residents in the eastern Kharkiv region, near the border with Russia, were still without power on Thursday evening, but electricity supply had been restored for nearly 70 percent of consumers, said Oleh Synehubov of the regional military administration.

“We’ve restarted power supplies,” said Igor Terekhov, mayor of Kharkiv city, adding that water was being restored to homes and municipal workers were reconnecting public transport.

“Believe me, it was very difficult.”

Ukraine accused Russian forces of launching around 70 cruise missiles as well as drones in attacks that left 10 dead and around 50 wounded.

But Russia’s defence ministry denied striking any targets inside Kyiv, insisting that Ukrainian and foreign air defence systems had caused the damage.

“Not a single strike was made on targets within the city of Kyiv,” it said.

‘Scariest day’

Moscow is targeting power facilities in an apparent effort to force capitulation after nine months of war that has seen its forces fail in most of their stated territorial objectives.

“The way they fight and target civil infrastructure, it can cause nothing but fury,” said Oleksiy Yakovlenko, chief administrator at a hospital in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kramatorsk.

Despite the increasingly frequent blackouts, Yakovlenko said his resolve was unwavering.

“If they expect us to fall on our knees and crawl to them it won’t happen,” Yakovlenko told AFP.

Russian troops have suffered a string of battlefield defeats.

Ukraine’s recapture of Kherson meant a withdrawal from the only regional capital Russia had captured, Moscow’s troops destroying key infrastructure as they retreated.

On Thursday, Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the Kherson military administration, said Russian strikes there had killed at least four people.

“The Russian invaders opened fire on a residential area with multiple rocket launchers. A large building caught fire,” he said on Telegram.

Ukraine prosecutors also said Thursday that the authorities had discovered a total of nine torture sites used by the Russians in Kherson, as well as “the bodies of 432 killed civilians”.

Wednesday’s attacks disconnected three Ukrainian nuclear plants automatically from the national grid and triggered blackouts in neighbouring Moldova, where the energy network is linked to Ukraine.

All three nuclear facilities had been reconnected by Thursday morning, said the energy ministry.

Power was nearly entirely back online in ex-Soviet Moldova, where its pro-European president Maia Sandu convened a special meeting of her security council.

‘Shutdowns’

The Kremlin said Ukraine was ultimately responsible for the fallout from the strikes and that Kyiv could end the strikes by acquiescing to Russian demands.

Ukraine “has every opportunity to settle the situation, to fulfil Russia’s demands and as a result, end all possible suffering of the civilian population,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Zelensky said Ukraine’s forces were “preparing to advance” in some areas.

“Almost every hour I receive reports of occupiers’ attacks on Kherson and other communities of the region,” he said.

“Such terror began immediately after the Russian army was forced to flee from Kherson region. This is the revenge of those who lost.”

The Ukrainian leader struck an optimistic tone at the end of his nightly address.

“We have withstood nine months of full-scale war, and Russia has not found a way to break us.”

Half Of Kyiv Residents Still Without Electricity After Strikes

TOPSHOT – People rest in a coffee shop in Lviv as the city lives through a scheduled power outages on November 24, 2022, after the latest Russian massive airstrikes on the Ukrainian energy infrastructure, amid the Russian invasion in Ukraine. (Photo by YURIY DYACHYSHYN / AFP)

 

Nearly half of Kyiv residents were still without electricity on Friday as engineers battled to restore services two days after Russian strikes hammered the country’s energy grid.

Systematic and targeted Russian attacks for weeks have brought Ukraine’s energy infrastructure to its knees as the country careens towards a freezing winter, spurring fears of a health crisis and a further exodus, nine months into war.

Municipal workers struggled Friday to reconnect essential services such as heat and water as temperatures in Kyiv approached freezing and UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly visited to announce a new aid package.

“Half of consumers are still without electricity,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. “A third of houses in Kyiv already have heating and specialists continue to restore it.”

“During the day, energy companies plan to reconnect electricity for all consumers on an alternating basis,” he wrote on Telegram.

Lines of cars queued outside petrol stations in Kyiv on Friday to stock up, AFP journalists said. Mobile networks in some areas were still experiencing disruptions.

Nationwide, repair work was ongoing, said Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, head of national electricity operator Ukrenergo, but insisted that “the most difficult stage” had passed.

Ukrenergo said that producers were providing more than 70 percent of the need across the country.

‘We live like this now’

Millions of Ukrainians have endured the cold without power since Russia fired dozens of missiles and launched drone attacks at water and electricity facilities on Wednesday.

“Yes, this is a difficult situation and yes, it can happen again. But Ukraine can cope,” presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said on television.

With gas for cooking and heating disconnected in her Kyiv apartment, Albina Bilogub told AFP that she and her children all sleep in the same room to stay warm.

“In our building, very few people have gas, so we go to the woman that I work for — I change her clothes because she is disabled — and we cook there,” she said.

“This is our life. One sweater, a second, a third. We live like this now.”

In northern Kyiv, a vet in blue scrubs and a face mask shone a light over an operating table in a darkened clinic as colleagues operated on an ailing dog late Thursday.

“We were in the middle of an operation and our lights turned off because a rocket fell not far away, so there was a power cut,” said Oleksiy Yankovenko.

“I had to finish the operation under the flashlights,” he added.

‘Brutal attacks’

Ukraine’s Western allies have denounced the Russian attacks on energy as a “war crime”, coming in the wake of a string of military setbacks for Russia on the frontlines.

Moscow insists it targets only military linked infrastructure and blamed Kyiv for the blackouts, saying Ukraine can end the suffering by agreeing to Russian demands.

Britain’s foreign minister announced new aid for Ukraine during his visit to Kyiv, including ambulances and support for victims of sexual violence by Russian soldiers.

“As winter sets in, Russia is continuing to try and break Ukrainian resolve through its brutal attacks on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure,” Cleverly said.

“Russia will fail,” he said, vowing UK support “will continue for as long as it takes”.

The attacks on Ukraine’s grid are Russia’s latest strategy designed to force Ukrainian capitulation after Moscow’s forces failed to topple the government and capture Kyiv nine months after launching their invasion.

Although they have captured swathes of territory in the south and east and the Kremlin claimed to annex four regions, Ukrainian troops are clawing back territory.

Russian forces have shelled the southern city of Kherson, from which they retreated earlier this month in their latest setback. The Ukrainian presidency said 11 people were killed and nearly 50 injured in the Kherson region on Thursday.

Russia Strikes ‘Critical Infrastructure’ In Kyiv – Officials

A man stands among debris of the destroyed two-storey building of the maternity ward in the town of Vilnyansk, southern Zaporizhzhia region, on November 23, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Katerina Klochko / AFP)

 

Russian missile strikes hit the Ukraine capital Kyiv Wednesday, officials said, damaging energy infrastructure, the latest in a series of systematic attacks that has caused nationwide blackouts with temperatures dropping.

“The enemy is launching missile strikes on critical infrastructure in Kyiv city. Stay in shelters until the air alert ends,” the Kyiv city administration said on social media.

AFP journalists meanwhile reported power cuts in the north and centre of Kyiv.

Energy operator DTEK said “emergency power shutdowns were imposed in Kyiv” following the strikes.

Engineers are “doing everything possible to stabilise the situation as soon as possible,” DTEK said.

READ ALSO: Moscow Says On Alert After Crimea Hit By ‘Drone Attack’

“A few more explosions in different districts of the capital,” Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram, adding that rescue services and medics were on the scene.

The Kyiv region governor Oleksiy Kuleba said Russians “hit residential buildings and critical infrastructure facilities in (Kyiv) region. There is a threat of repeated shelling. Stay in shelters!”

The World Health Organisation warned Monday millions of Ukrainian lives were at risk this winter as the country’s power grid struggles under a barrage of Russian attacks.

AFP

Ukraine Says Its Forces Entering Kherson After Russian Retreat

Ukrainian soldiers ride on a Self-propelled artillery 2S1 Gvozdika outside Bakhmut on November 9, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

 

Ukraine said on Friday its forces were entering the southern city of Kherson and hailed an “important victory” after Russia announced its troops had retreated from the only regional capital it has captured after nearly nine months fighting.

The announcement that Moscow’s pullout was over came hours after Russian strikes killed seven people in Mykolaiv, a city near Kherson, that Russian troops have battered for months.

“Kherson is returning to Ukrainian control and units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are entering the city,” the defence ministry said on social media.

It added that its artillery teams had clear views over Russia’s routes to retreat and warned: “Any attempts to oppose the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be stopped.”

Russia announced earlier that it had finished pulling back its troops.

But the Kremlin insisted that Kherson was still part of Russia and that it did not regret annexing the entire Kherson region at a lavish ceremony in late September.

“The transfer of Russian troops to the left [eastern] bank of the Dnipro River was completed. Not a single piece of military equipment and weapons was left on the right [western] bank,” the Russian defence ministry said.

‘No regrets’

“Ukraine is gaining another important victory right now and proves that whatever Russia says or does, Ukraine will win,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on social media.

He posted an amateur video showing Ukrainians removing a billboard near Kherson that proclaimed: “Russia is here forever”.

Ukraine’s parliament published pictures of people with Ukrainian flags in the city centre.

Kherson was the first major urban hub to fall to Russian troops after President Vladimir Putin announced Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, and it was the only regional capital his forces seized.

Its full recapture by Kyiv would be a political and symbolic blow to Putin and open a gateway for Ukraine’s forces to the entire Kherson region, with access to both the Black Sea in the west and Sea of Azov in the east.

It would also disrupt an important land bridge for Russia between its mainland and the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukrainian officials were initially wary after Moscow announced this week that it would pull forces to defensive positions on the east bank of the river in Kherson.

While it would appear a major Russian setback in a region Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed, the Kremlin on Friday dismissed any suggestion the status of the region had changed after the retreat.

“This is a subject of the Russian Federation. There are no changes in this and there cannot be changes,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The region of Kherson was one of four territories of Ukraine that Putin claimed to have annexed during a grand ceremony in the Kremlin in late September, vowing at the time to use all available methods to defend it from Kyiv.

‘Cynical’ attack

Asked by reporters whether Russia now regretted annexing Kherson, Peskov said the Kremlin had “no regrets” about the move.

The announcement from Moscow that it had finished retreating in Kherson came after a fatal Russian strike on a residential building in the southern city of Mykolaiv.

Russian troops failed to capture the Black Sea city from Ukraine in the early stages of their invasion but have launched rockets and missiles on the embattled city for months.

An AFP journalist at the scene of the strike saw a gaping hole cut through a Soviet-style residential building with emergency workers in yellow helmets on the site clearing rubble.

Mykolaiv regional governor Vitaliy Kim said on social media the toll had risen to six.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky branded the strike a “cynical response to our successes at the front”.

He announced late on Thursday that his forces had recaptured more than 40 towns and villages in southern Ukraine during a counter-offensive begun in August.

On Thursday, the United States announced a new $400-million security assistance package for Kyiv, including defence systems and surface-to-air missiles.

“(With) Russia’s unrelenting and brutal air attacks on Ukrainian civilian and critical infrastructure, additional air defense capabilities are critical,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told journalists.

Russian Strike On Residential Building Kills Five In South Ukraine

A local resident pulls a cart past a damaged building in the town of Bakhmut on October 15, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)

 

Ukraine said Friday that at least five people were killed following a Russian strike on a residential building in the southern city of Mykolaiv, near the frontline.

The attack came as Russia said it was drawing down troops from the nearby city of Kherson, the only regional capital Moscow’s forces captured in Ukraine after they launched their February invasion.

The Mykolaiv regional governor Vitaliy Kim said on social media that the toll had risen to five after the latest fatal attack on the city that has been battered for months by Russian forces.


READ ALSO: Ukraine Says Dozens Of Villages Recaptured Amid Russian Retreat


President Volodymyr Zelensky said the strike was a “cynical response to our successes at the front.”

“A strike at a five-storey residential building. Destroyed from the 5th to the 1st floor,” he said on social media.

Images circulating social media showed a gaping hole cut through a Soviet-style residential building with emergency workers in yellow helmets on the site clearing rubble.

Ukrainian officials have remained wary after Moscow signalled late Wednesday that it would pull forces from the west bank of the Dnipro river in Kherson, in what would be a major Russian setback in a region Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed.

Power, Water Restored In Kyiv After Russian Strikes

 Local residents wait in line to collect water from a public water pump in a park of Kyiv on October 31, 2022. (Photo by SERGEI CHUZAVKOV / AFP)
Local residents wait in line to collect water from a public water pump in a park of Kyiv on October 31, 2022. (Photo by SERGEI CHUZAVKOV / AFP)

 

Water and power supplies were fully restored in Kyiv on Tuesday a day after Russian missile strikes, as grain exports from Ukraine continued despite Moscow pulling out of a deal to let ships through.

Russian authorities meanwhile announced that tens of thousands more civilians would be “evacuated” from the Russian-occupied southern Ukrainian region of Kherson amid a counter-offensive by Kyiv.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said Monday’s bombardment was “one of the most massive shellings of our territory by the army of the Russian Federation”.

Following the strikes, aerial views showed Kyiv plunged in darkness overnight, with the only lights coming from cars on the road.

In a town near Kyiv on Monday, the powerful explosions had woken up Mila Ryabova, 39.

Ryabova told AFP that she and her family were “worrying and talking about opportunities to move abroad, because there is a cold winter ahead. We may not have electricity, heat supply.”

Monday’s shelling had left 80 percent of the capital’s consumers without water and 350,000 homes without electricity.

On Tuesday, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said water and electricity supplies had been “fully restored” in the capital.

Klitschko warned that there would still be planned power cuts in the city “because of the considerable deficit in the power system after the barbaric attacks of the aggressor”.

Ukrainian energy operator Ukrenergo said it would limit supplies to all consumers in central and northern regions of the country to “reduce the pressure on the network”.

‘Help energy sector’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron Tuesday.

He thanked Macron for “specific decisions on strengthening Ukraine’s defence capabilities. Specific initiatives to restore the destroyed energy infrastructure.”

EU commissioner for energy Kadri Simson arrived in Kyiv “to help scale up support to the Ukrainian energy sector”, she said on Twitter.

The Ukrainian army said Russia launched 55 cruise missiles on Monday, mainly at energy infrastructure.

In a statement Tuesday, the Russian defence ministry claimed the “massive strikes… significantly disrupted the management and logistics of the Ukrainian armed forces”.

Russia has pivoted to systematically attacking Ukrainian energy infrastructure after setbacks on the battlefield, where the Russian army is facing pushbacks on the eastern and the southern fronts.

In the south, Kyiv’s forces are preparing for fierce battles to recapture the city of Kherson and its surrounding region.

Kherson is one of the four regions — along with Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Lugansk — that Moscow claims to have annexed but does not fully control.

New ‘evacuations’ from Kherson

Russian occupation authorities in Kherson said Tuesday that tens of thousands more people would be “evacuated” from the region amid Kyiv’s counteroffensive.

This comes after 70,000 people already left their homes in Kherson, Moscow-installed local authorities said last week.

The Russian-backed leader of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, said Tuesday new resettlements were being carried out because of the risk of a “massive missile attack” by Ukrainian forces on a local dam.

But Ukraine said that Russian “occupiers are carrying out forced displacement of the civilian population”.

“Citizens living in premises along the banks of the Dnipro river are being forcibly evicted from their homes,” the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Facebook on Tuesday.

Grain corridor

Also on Tuesday, three more grain-loaded cargo ships left Ukrainian ports despite Russia’s decision to suspend its participation in a deal to allow grain exports to cross the Black Sea.

Russia announced the move after accusing Kyiv of a “massive” drone attack on its fleet on Saturday, which Ukraine labelled a “false pretext”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country brokered the July grain export agreement along with the United Nations, is to speak with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts in the coming days with the aim of restoring the deal.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was “risky” to continue the exports without Russia’s consent.

In his evening address Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said the grain deal breakdown was “clear evidence that Russia will continue to oppose itself to the entire international community”, adding it was “very important now to prevent this global destabilisation”.

AFP

Power Cuts In Kyiv After Strikes On Energy Grid

A man falls on the ground following a drone attack in Kyiv on October 17, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

 

Kyiv’s energy operator said Sunday that scheduled “stabilisation” power cuts have been introduced in the Ukrainian capital after repeated Russian strikes on the country’s energy infrastructure.

“On October 23, stabilisation shutdowns were introduced in Kyiv by national energy operator Ukrenergo to avoid accidents,” energy company DTEK said in a statement on its website.

The blackouts started from 11:13 am (0813 GMT) with consumers in Kyiv divided into three groups that will be “disconnected for a certain period of time”, DTEK said.

READ ALSO: Leave ‘Immediately’, Pro-Russian Officials Tell Kherson Residents

It added that the blackouts should last “no more than four hours” but may be longer “due to the scale of damage to the power supply system”.

DTEK reiterated calls for residents to use electricity “sparingly” and for businesses to limit their use of external lighting.

Over a million households in Ukraine were left without electricity following Russian strikes on energy facilities across the country on Saturday, the Ukrainian presidency said.

Russia in recent days has repeatedly targeted Ukraine’s energy grid, destroying at least a third of the country’s power stations ahead of winter.

AFP

Ukraine Shells Housing Near Border In Russia’s Belgorod

File photo: Smoke rises at a warehouse after shelling in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine, on May 3, 2022, as fighting is raging across Ukraine’s east amid a US warning that Moscow is preparing to formally annex eastern regions.
Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

 

A residential building in the southern Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukraine border was hit Thursday in shelling by Kyiv’s forces, the city governor said.

“The Ukrainian armed forces shelled Belgorod. There is damage at a residential apartment building on Gubkin street. Information about the victims is being detailed,” the Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a statement on Telegram.

Gladkov added that shelling by Ukraine’s forces had landed near school grounds in a village called Krasnoye outside the main city of Belgorod, with students participating online from home. No one was reported injured or killed.

Amateur images distributed on social media showed dark smoke drifting from a high-rise building and debris strewn on the ground below.

Russian officials have repeatedly claimed that Ukraine shelling has hit the southern region and pointed to multiple incidents at the beginning of the war as justification for sending troops into Ukraine.

Earlier this week Gladkov said Ukraine shelling on electrical facilities had briefly left some 2,000 people without power.

AFP

Russia Stiffens Penalty For Surrender, Replaces Top General

Police officers detain a man in Moscow on September 21, 2022, following calls to protest against partial mobilisation announced by President Vladimir Putin.

 

Russia on Saturday toughened penalties for soldiers voluntarily surrendering or refusing to fight, with up to 10 years imprisonment, and it replaced its top logistics general after a series of setbacks to its seven-month war in Ukraine.

Those developments come days after Russia instigated a partial mobilisation affecting up to 300,000 additional troops, at a time when Kyiv has taken back more and more territory in a stunning counter-offensive.

Seemingly in response to the new Russian penalties, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky directly addressed Russian citizens on Saturday, telling them that their president was knowingly “sending citizens to their death.”

Speaking in Russian, he called on Moscow’s forces to surrender, saying, “You will be treated in a civilized manner… No one will know the circumstances of your surrendering.”

His pointed remarks came as Kremlin-held regions of eastern and southern Ukraine voted for a second day on whether to become part of Russia, dramatically raising the stakes in the conflict.


READ ALSO: Russians Flee To Istanbul After Mobilisation Call


Integrating the four regions into Russia would mean that Moscow would consider any military move there as an attack on its own territory.

Zelensky has denounced the polls, on Friday calling them “crimes against international law and the law of Ukraine”.

Ukraine’s recent gains have laid bare flaws in Russia’s approach since it invaded on February 24, with some analysts seeing logistics as the weak link in Moscow’s army.

“Army General Dmitry Bulgakov has been relieved of the post of deputy minister of defence” and will be replaced by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, aged 60, the defence ministry said.

Russia’s partial mobilisation, announced on Wednesday, will likely be one of Mizintsev’s first big logistical challenges, with the hundreds of thousands of reservists being called up needing equipment and training before deployment.

Military-age men have sought to leave, with flights full and neighbouring countries receiving an influx of Russians. Some 2,300 private vehicles were waiting at one crossing into Georgia, regional Russian authorities said.

“We were talking to our friends and many are thinking about leaving,” said Daria, 22, after fleeing Russia to Istanbul with many of her compatriots.

“Not everyone wanted to leave in February. The (mobilisation) decision of September 21 forced many to think about it again.”

More than 700 people were detained in protests on Saturday against the partial mobilisation, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info.

Now that President Vladimir Putin has signed the legislation, servicemen who desert, surrender “without authorisation”, refuse to fight or disobey orders can face up to 10 years imprisonment.

Looting will be punishable by 15 years imprisonment.

A separate law, also signed on Saturday, facilitates Russian citizenship for foreigners who enlist in the Russian army as the Kremlin seeks to bolster the ranks.

Biden calls vote a ‘sham’

On Friday, US President Joe Biden dismissed as a “sham” the voting on whether Russia should annex four regions of Ukraine.

And in remarks at the UN General Assembly in New York, even Beijing, Moscow’s closest ally since the war began, called on Russia and Ukraine not to let the effects of the war “spill over”.

In his own address to the UN on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov bitterly criticized Western nations, saying the United States and its allies sought to “destroy” his country.

“The official Russophobia in the West is unprecedented. Now the scope is grotesque,” he said.

He also defended the referendums, describing them as people claiming land “where their ancestors have been living for hundreds of years.”

The voting is being held in Russian-controlled areas of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.

Authorities there are going door-to-door to collect votes.

Polling stations then open Tuesday for residents to cast ballots on the final day of voting. Results are expected as early as late Tuesday.

“Ultimately, things are moving towards the restoration of the Soviet Union. The referendum is one step towards this,” Leonid, a 59-year-old military official, told AFP.

The snap referendums were announced just this week after the Ukrainian counter-offensive seized most of the northeast Kharkiv region — bringing hundreds of settlements back under Kyiv’s control after months of Russian occupation.

On Saturday, bad weather and stiff Russian resistance caused Ukraine’s counter-offensive to slow to a brutal slog in Kupiansk, in the eastern Kharkiv region.

“For now, the rain is making it difficult to use heavy weapons everywhere. We can only use paved roads,” Ukrainian army sergeant Roman Malyna told AFP.

Irpin, close to the capital, was recaptured after weeks of fighting and residents have rallied to start rebuilding before winter sets in.

More than 100 apartment blocks in Irpin — dubbed a “hero city” by Zelensky for holding back Russian invaders — were badly damaged by shelling.

Evidence of ‘war crimes’

Head of the residents’ association in his building, Mykhailo Kyrylenko looked proudly at the new roof taking shape.

“People don’t have much money, but they agreed” to donate funds to gradually restore shattered homes, he told AFP.

Putin this week warned that Moscow would use “all means” to protect its territory — which former Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev said on social media could include the use of “strategic nuclear weapons”.

UN investigators on Friday accused Russia of committing war crimes on a “massive scale” in Ukraine — listing bombings, executions, torture and horrific sexual violence.

In the eastern Kharkiv region, Ukrainian officials said they had exhumed 447 bodies from a site near the city of Izyum, which was recaptured from Russian forces.

The Kremlin has accused Kyiv of fabricating evidence of the alleged war crimes.

Zelensky Urges World To Condemn Russia’s ‘Pseudo-Referendums’

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart in Kyiv on August 23, 2022, amid Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)
In this file photo, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart in Kyiv on August 23, 2022, amid Russia’s military invasion launched on Ukraine. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)

 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday urged the world to condemn “pseudo-referendums” as Kremlin proxies began voting on annexation by Russia in Moscow-held areas of Ukraine.

“The world will react absolutely justly to pseudo-referendums — they will be unequivocally condemned,” Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation.

READ ALSO‘I Don’t Want To Die’: Russians Flee Abroad After Putin’s Call-Up

Four provinces in Ukraine that are fully or partially controlled by Russia — Donetsk and Lugansk in the east as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south — are holding votes on whether to be annexed by Moscow.

The ballots have been dismissed as a “sham” by Kyiv and its Western allies.

AFP

Biden Calls Latest Russian Bombing Of Kyiv ‘Barbarism’

US President Joe Biden announces a ban on US imports of Russian oil and gas, March 8, 2022, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Jim WATSON / AFP
US President Joe Biden announces a ban on US imports of Russian oil and gas, March 8, 2022, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Jim WATSON / AFP

 

President Joe Biden on Sunday described Russia’s latest bombing of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv as “barbarism” at the G7 summit in Germany.

“It’s more of their barbarism,” Biden told reporters at the summit site in the German Alps, when asked for his reaction to the Russian missile strikes against a residential building.

More to follow…

Vienna Returns As World’s ‘Most Liveable City’

A homeless man takes a nap at a bus stop in Vienna, Austria on June 23, 2022. JOE KLAMAR / AFP
A homeless man takes a nap at a bus stop in Vienna, Austria on June 23, 2022.
JOE KLAMAR / AFP

 

The Austrian capital Vienna has made a comeback as the world’s most liveable city, according to an annual report from the Economist published Thursday.

The Ukrainian capital Kyiv was not included this year after Russia invaded the country in late February, while Russian cities Moscow and St Petersburg fell in the rankings over “censorship” and the impact of Western sanctions.

Vienna snatched the top spot from Auckland, which tumbled down to 34th place due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions, according to the report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

READ ALSO: France Seeks Full Gas Reserves As Russia Cuts Supplies

“Vienna, which slipped to 12th place in our rankings in early 2021 as its museums and restaurants were closed, has since rebounded to first place, the position it held in 2018 and 2019,” it said.

“Stability and good infrastructure are the city’s main charms for its inhabitants, supported by good healthcare and plenty of opportunities for culture and entertainment.”

Europe boasted six out of the top ten cities.

The Austrian capital was followed by the Danish capital Copenhagen and Switzerland’s Zurich. Fellow Swiss city Geneva came sixth, Germany’s Frankfurt seventh, and the Netherlands’ Amsterdam ninth.

Canada also did well.

Calgary came in joint third position, followed by Vancouver in fifth place and Toronto in eighth.

Japan’s Osaka and Australia’s Melbourne shared the tenth place.

France’s capital Paris came 19th, 23 places up from last year.

The Belgian capital Brussels was 24th, just behind Canada’s Montreal.

The United Kingdom’s capital London was the world’s 33rd most liveable city, while Spain’s Barcelona and Madrid came 35th and 43rd respectively.

Italy’s Milan ranked number 49, the US city of New York 51, and China’s Beijing came 71st.

Lebanon’s capital Beirut, which was ravaged by a 2020 port explosion and is battling a crippling financial crisis, was not included in the ranking of business destinations.

Neither was the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, after the Russian invasion on February 24 forced the the EIU to abort its survey of the city.

Russia’s capital Moscow saw its liveability ranking fall by 15 places, while St Petersburg slipped by 13 places.

“Increased censorship accompanies the ongoing conflict,” the report noted.

“Russian cities are additionally seeing restrictions on culture and environment as a result of Western economic sanctions.”

Other cities in eastern Europe cities were considered less stable following “raised diplomatic tensions” due to the war in Ukraine.

The capital of war-torn Syria, Damascus, retained its place as least liveable city on the planet.

 

AFP