A barrage of Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure has knocked out power across large areas of the war-torn country as well as parts of neighbouring Moldova, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calling the attacks a “crime against humanity”.
“When we have the temperature below zero and scores of millions of people without energy supplies, without heating, without water, this is an obvious crime against humanity,” Zelenskyy told an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday via video link.
In the capital Kyiv, where the water supply was also cut, at least six civilians were killed and nine wounded, authorities said, when a rocket hit a two-storey building on Wednesday.
Multiple regions reported attacks in quick succession as Moscow pursues its campaign to debilitate Ukraine’s essential services ahead of the looming winter.
United States 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 added.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya responded by complaining that it was against council rules for Zelenskyy to appear via video and rejected what he called “reckless threats and ultimatums” by Ukraine and its supporters in the West.
Before the latest wave of attacks, Zelenskyy said Russian strikes had already damaged about half of Ukraine’s infrastructure.
Ukrainian officials say they believe Putin is hoping the misery of unheated and unlit homes in the cold of winter will turn public opinion against continuing to fight Russia’s offensive, but they say it is having the opposite effect and is strengthening Ukrainian resolve.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Wednesday that “one of the capital’s infrastructure facilities has been hit” and there were “several more explosions in different districts” of the city.
Power outages also affected the northern city of Kharkiv, the western city of Lviv, the Chernihiv region in northern Ukraine and the Odesa region in the south.
Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian ministerial adviser, noted that the attacks came moments after the European Parliament declared Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism”.
Rockets hit Kyiv right after European Parliament recognized Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Confirmation received. pic.twitter.com/cwpI7ZJEKK
‘Russia left Moldova in the dark’
In Moldova, Infrastructure Minister Andrei Spinu said: “We have massive power outages across the country.”
Moldova’s Soviet-era energy systems remain interconnected with Ukraine’s. There was a similar outage in the country of 2.6 million people on November 15.
“Russia left Moldova in the dark”, its pro-Western president, Maia Sandu, said adding that her nation “must remain toward the free world”.
Power also was out in most parts of western Ukraine’s Khmelnytskyi region, Governor Serhiy Hamaliy said on Telegram. He added that a nuclear power plant in the region was disconnected from the Ukrainian electricity grid.
“This was the latest of several rounds of similar waves of missile strikes, basically designed to cripple Ukraine’s power infrastructure to plunge the country into darkness,” said Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Kyiv. “There may be more to come.”
He added that “there’s no evidence” of Russia breaking the will of the Ukrainian people, according to the many people he has interviewed in recent weeks.
The latest onslaught came hours after Ukrainian authorities said a rocket attack destroyed a hospital’s maternity ward in southern Ukraine, killing a two-day-old baby boy.
After the overnight attack in Vilniansk, close to the city of Zaporizhzhia, the baby’s mother and a doctor were pulled alive from the rubble.
The region’s governor said the rockets were Russian.
The attack adds to the gruesome toll suffered by hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as their patients and staff, in the Russian invasion, which will enter its 10th month this week.
First Lady Olena Zelenska wrote on Twitter: “Horrible pain. We will never forget and never forgive.”
‘The chaos of the war’
The situation is also concerning in the southern city of Kherson, from which Russia retreated nearly two weeks ago after occupying it for months.
Many doctors there are working in the dark, unable to use elevators to transport patients to surgeries and operating with headlamps, mobile phones and flashlights. In some hospitals, key equipment no longer works.
“Breathing machines don’t work, X-ray machines don’t work,” said Volodymyr Malishchuk, the head of surgery at a children’s hospital in Kherson. “There is only one portable ultrasound machine and we carry it constantly.”
Save the Children raised the alarm on Wednesday as freezing weather sets in.
“An average of about 900 children a day are being born into a life of uncertainty,” said Sonia Khush, the charity’s director in Ukraine. “The chaos of the war poses a serious threat to these mothers and newborns. We’re hearing accounts of women who’ve gone into labour early because of their constant state of stress and fear.
“At the start of the war, many pregnant women were forced to give birth in basements or bunkers,” she said. “Now, we’re seeing women give birth in overwhelmed hospitals, away from family members, and in countries hosting refugees from Ukraine.