©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is seen on screen as he speaks during the 68th annual session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Madrid, Spain November 21, 2022. REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo 2/3
By Simon Lewis and Dan Peleschuk
WASHINGTON/Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the United Nations Security Council to take action against Russia over airstrikes on civilian infrastructure that have plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold yet again as winter sets in.
Russia unleashed rocket fire on Ukraine on Wednesday, killing ten people, shutting down nuclear power plants and cutting off water and electricity supplies in many places.
“Today is only one day, but we received 70 rockets. This is the Russian terror formula. It’s all against our energy infrastructure…Hospitals, schools, transportation, neighborhoods have all suffered,” Zelenskyy said via video link to the City Hall.
Ukraine is waiting for a “very firm response” from the world to Wednesday’s airstrikes, he added.
The Council is unlikely to respond to the appeal as Russia is a veto member.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russian President Vladimir Putin “clearly armed the 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, dismissing what he called “reckless threats and ultimatums” by Ukraine and its Western backers.
Nebenzya said the damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure was caused by missiles fired from Ukrainian air defense systems that hit civilian areas after being fired at Russian missiles, and urged the West to request air defense missile supplies shut down Ukraine.
The capital Kyiv was one of the main targets of the rocket attacks on Wednesday. “Today we had three hits on residential high-rise buildings. Unfortunately, ten people died,” Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said. Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.
Explosions echoed throughout Kyiv as Russian missiles slammed in and Ukrainian air defense missiles were launched to intercept them. Air raid sirens also wailed across the country in a nationwide alert.
“Our little one fell asleep. two years old She slept, she was covered. She’s alive, thank God,” said a man, who gave his name Fyodr, walking away from a smoldering apartment building that was smashed into Kyiv, dragging a suitcase.
The entire Kyiv region, home to over 3 million people, has lost electricity and running water, the governor of Kyiv said. Much of Ukraine suffered from similar problems, and some regions instituted emergency power outages to conserve energy and carry out repairs.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said late Wednesday that 80% of people in the capital are still without electricity and water. But Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said repair crews are working hard and “electricity will appear in the coming hours”.
By 6 p.m., power was restored in half of the western city of Lviv after repairs, the mayor said.
Ukraine’s top military commander, General Valeriy Zaluzhniy, said air defenses shot down 51 of 67 fired Russian cruise missiles, including 20 of the 30 aimed at Kyiv.
Since October, Russia has admitted to attacking Ukraine’s civilian power grid far from the front lines, as a Ukrainian counter-offensive has retaken areas from Russian occupiers in the east and south.
Moscow says the aim of its rocket attacks is to weaken Ukraine’s combat capability and urge it to negotiate. Kyiv says the attacks on infrastructure are war crimes deliberately aimed at harming civilians and breaking the national will.
That won’t happen, Zelenskiy vowed in a previous video address published on the Telegram messaging app.
“We will innovate everything and survive everything because we are an unbreakable people,” he said.
As the first snows of Ukraine’s generally cold winter fall, authorities are concerned about the impact of power outages on millions of people.
Zelenskyi announced on Tuesday that special “invincibility centers” would provide citizens with electricity, heat, water, internet, mobile phone connections and a pharmacy free of charge and around the clock. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the presidential administration, said on the Telegram messaging app that 2,750 of the centers were operational as of Wednesday evening.
In addition, Europe’s largest cities are donating electricity generators and transformers.
A series of Russian battlefield setbacks to the east and south included a Russian withdrawal from the key southern city of Kherson earlier this month.
Ground fighting continues to rage in the east, where Russia is pushing an offensive along a sector of front west of the city of Donetsk held by its proxies since 2014.
Moscow says it is conducting a “special military operation” to protect Russian speakers in what Putin calls an artificial state carved out of Russia. Ukraine and the West are calling the invasion an unprovoked land grab.
Western reactions included billions of dollars worth of financial aid and state-of-the-art military equipment for Kyiv, and waves of punitive sanctions against Russia.