Time International Desk: Ukraine worked on Saturday to restore electricity and water supplies after Russia’s latest wave of attacks pitched multiple cities into darkness and forced people to endure sub-zero temperatures without heating or running water.
The volley of missiles unleashed Friday came as president Vladimir Putin held extensive meetings with the military top brass overseeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where Moscow has stepped up bombardments.
In the capital Kyiv, the metro had stopped running so that people wrapped in winter coats could take shelter at underground stations after air raid sirens rang out on Friday morning.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said the metro service was relaunched early Saturday and water supply had been restored.
However, a third of Kyiv residents were still without power, Klitschko added.
Power was also restored throughout the eastern city of Kharkiv on Saturday, regional governor Oleg Sinegubov said, after the strikes left Ukraine’s second city without electricity.
Ukraine’s national energy provider imposed emergency blackouts, saying on Saturday that the energy system ‘continues to recover’.
Ukrenergo had warned the extent of the damage in the north, south and centre of the country meant it could take longer to restore supplies than after previous attacks.
During a visit to the army staff Friday, Putin sought out proposals from his military commanders on how Russia should proceed with the Ukraine offensive, according to the Kremlin.
The Kremlin released footage of Putin presiding over a round-table meeting with defence minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov among other top brass.
After a series of humiliating battlefield defeats, Russia since October has pursued an aerial onslaught against what Moscow says are military-linked facilities.
But France and the European Union have said the suffering inflicted on freezing civilians constitutes war crimes, with the bloc’s foreign policy chief calling the bombings ‘barbaric’.
Russia’s defence ministry said Saturday the strikes targeted Ukraine’s military and energy facilities, while also disrupting ‘the transfer of weapons and ammunition of foreign production’.
‘All assigned targets were hit,’ the ministry said in its daily briefing.
Russia fired 74 mainly cruise missiles Friday, 60 of which were shot down by anti-aircraft defences, according to the Ukrainian army.
Kyiv withstood one of the biggest missile attacks since the start of the invasion. Regional officials said their air defence forces had shot down 37 out of 40 missiles.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said the strikes hit power and water supplies in Kyiv and 14 regions.
In the central city of Kryvyi Rig, where Zelensky was born, the air strikes hit a residential building.
A 64-year-old woman and a young couple with a little son died, governor Valentyn Reznichenko said Saturday, adding that 13 others had been wounded.
In the south, fresh Russian shelling in Kherson, recently recaptured by Ukraine, killed a 36-year-old man and injured a 70-year-old woman, governor Yaroslav Yanushevich said.
He later said that a separate strike hit a geriatric centre in the village of Stepanivka just north of Kherson. There were no casualties or injuries reported.
Kherson has been subjected to persistent Russian shelling since Moscow’s forces retreated in November, and power was cut in the city earlier this week.
Moscow has said the strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure are a response to an explosion on the Kerch bridge connecting the Russian mainland to the Crimean peninsula, annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Ukrainian defence officials said this week that their forces had downed over a dozen Iranian-made attack drones launched at Kyiv, a sign that Western-supplied systems are having an impact.
Ukrainian military leaders have warned Moscow is preparing for a major winter offensive, including a fresh attempt to take Kyiv.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia was readying for a protracted war.
‘We see that they are mobilising more forces, that they are willing to suffer also a lot of casualties, that they are trying to get access to more weapons and ammunition,’ he said.
Aiming to push Moscow to the negotiating table, the EU Friday imposed further sanctions, adding restrictions on the export of drone engines to Russia or countries like Iran looking to supply Moscow with weapons.
Russia’s foreign ministry said Saturday the new package of ‘illegitimate unilateral restrictive measures’ will not achieve its goal.