KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian-appointed authorities say they are working to partially restore power in the occupied Ukrainian city of Kherson following what they called a Ukrainian “terrorist attack” on power lines.
The southern city in the region that Moscow illegally annexed in September was cut off from power and water supplies on Sunday following damage to three power lines.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the pro-Kremlin administration of the partially occupied Kherson region, said Monday that “power and connectivity is being partially restored" the main city. The alleged attack occurred on the Berislav-Kakhovka power line, and Russian state media reported that the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station had also been damaged by Ukrainian strikes.
Ukrainian officials haven't responded to the allegations.
Stremousov has repeatedly called for civilians to evacuate from Kherson — which lies on the western bank of the Dnieper River — to Russian-controlled territory on the eastern bank in anticipation of a major Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake the strategic port. Tens of thousands have already left.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive has retaken around 88 settlements in the region, or around 13% of the territory previously held by Russian forces.
Ukraine’s presidential office said Monday said that Russian soldiers in plainclothes have been moving into apartments in Kherson, presumably to get ready for urban warfare. One Kherson resident told The Associated Press that Russian military personnel were going door-to-door, forcing tenants to leave immediately if they could not prove ownership of apartments.
Last month, Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that occupying Russian forces in the Kherson region had been purposefully shutting off electricity and water and depriving the population of internet access to force them to evacuate.
Yet on Monday, the region’s Russian-installed administration announced it was halting “the movement of civilian vehicles across the Dnieper by water and pontoon ferry,” citing “increased military danger.”
Russia has focused on striking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure over the last month, causing power shortages and rolling outages across the country. The capital, Kyiv, was having hourly rotating blackouts in parts of the city and the surrounding region. Ukraine’s state-owned electricity grid operator Ukrenergo on Monday announced additional power outages in the Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Sumy, Kharkiv, Poltava and Zhytomyr regions.
To repair Ukraine's besieged energy system, experts say the country needs high-voltage transformers and distribution and communication equipment.
“It is important that there are constant, not one-time, deliveries” of this equipment, Gennadii Riabtsev, chief researcher on energy security at the National Institute for Strategic Studies, told the AP.
The first delivery of high voltage transformers from the European Union is expected in the coming weeks, but this supply isn't enough to significantly improve the situation, he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that about 4.5 million people were without electricity across the country. He called on Ukrainians to endure the hardships, saying, “we must get through this winter and be even stronger in the spring than now.”
Despite recent Russian successes in damaging key Ukrainian infrastructure, Moscow's battlefield and mobilization efforts have shown signs of faltering as conscripted Russian troops reportedly voice their discontent with how the war is being waged.
One such report, by the Russian online news outlet Vyorstka, said that hundreds of newly called-up fighters were recently killed in Ukraine’s Luhansk region by Ukrainian shelling. Survivors and their relatives told the outlet that officers abandoned them on the front line, and that an entire battalion was only equipped with three shovels to dig trenches.
Soldiers' family members recorded a video address to the governor of Voronezh, the Russian region the men were reportedly mobilized from, pleading with him to get them away from the front lines.
Another video on social media showed scores of mobilized reservists protesting in their camp in Russia’s central region of Tatarstan, reportedly frustrated over the lack of gear, ammunition and food. They chanted obscenities to one of their commanders.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said 80,000 mobilized reservists have been deployed to Ukraine out of over 300,000 called up since Sept. 21, but only 50,000 of them are in “combat units.”
Putin’s remarks came amid mounting media reports alleging that mobilized reservists receive little training or equipment and are quickly killed in combat in large numbers. There have also been reports of massive losses among Russia’s professional soldiers.
Russian war correspondents reported that marines from Russia’s Pacific Fleet sent a complaint to Primorye Gov. Oleg Kozhemyako, lamenting that in four days the fleet suffered “about 300 people killed, wounded and missing” during “some incoherent offensive” on the village of Pavlivka in Ukraine’s heavily contested Donetsk region.
Kozhemyako said he ordered military prosecutors to investigate the complaint, and later reported that the group’s commanders confirmed “losses, but not nearly as (big)” as the complaint alleged.
Russian-installed officials accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the regional capital, also called Donetsk, with HIMARS rocket launchers early Monday.
The city's Kremlin-backed mayor, Alexei Kulemzin, said a fire broke out in an administrative building of the Donetsk Railways, but the blaze was contained. The city of Donetsk has been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
In Ukrainian-controlled territory, Russian shelling over the past 24 hours killed at least three civilians and wounded seven more, according to Ukraine’s presidential office.
The office's deputy head, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said Russian strikes in the Zaporizhzhia region targeted civilian objects including a cultural center, farmers’ warehouses and private residences.
He noted that the Zaporizhzhia region — also illegally annexed by Russia in September but not fully controlled by Russian forces — was shelled 52 times over the past 24 hours, and one person was killed. Two cities near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant -- Marhanets and Myrove -- were shelled by Russian heavy artillery and currently remain without power.
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Andrew Meldrum, The Associated Press