Eastern Ukraine has been plunged into a ‘total blackout’ a day after Kyiv’s troops retaliated, forcing the Russian army to retreat. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in the region.
A large part of the war-torn eastern Ukraine region suffered power outages and reduced water supplies on Sunday. The shutdown will affect about nine million people in the region, including territory controlled by Russia.
“Several settlements are without electricity or water supply. Emergency services are working to control the fire in the affected areas,” Kharkiv region governor Oleg Senigubov said in a statement on social media.
Similar reports were received in the evening from Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, Zaporizhzhia and Odesa regions.
The Ukrainian president pointed the finger of blame at Russia, accusing Moscow of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure.
Zelensky blamed “Russian terrorists” in a statement on social media, saying “complete blackout in Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, partially in Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy regions”.
“There are no military facilities,” he added. “The goal is to deprive people of light and warmth.”
Al Jazeera’s Huda Abdul Hamid, reporting from Kharkiv, said: “There are power outages in five areas in the northeastern and eastern parts of the country. What we are hearing from the authorities is that the Russians have damaged infrastructure. They’re not telling us what or where, but the city is pitch black.
“When we were on the streets. [the power outage] It was windy and everything was completely dark when we were going back to our place. A light was not on. It was quite a fascinating scene.”
Authorities in the Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk and Poltava regions said shortly after the blackout announcements that power had been restored.
Russian attacks were also disrupting railways, with the national train service announcing delays across the east, including in the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said Russia’s attacks were an act of desperation after Russia’s massive losses and retreat in eastern Ukraine.
Dmytro Reznichenko, head of the Dnipropetrovsk region, said: “The Russians targeted the energy infrastructure. They cannot accept defeat on the battlefield,” he said in a statement online.
AFP journalists in the Donetsk regional city of Kramatoruk, meanwhile, confirmed that the cuts are also affecting one of the largest cities in the east, which is still under Ukrainian control.
‘Ukraine’s Strategic Victory’
The blackout came as Ukrainian forces claimed to have recaptured dozens of towns and villages in eastern Ukraine on Saturday, forcing Russian troops to retreat.
Ukraine’s president praised his troops on Sunday for ‘liberating’ the key eastern city of Izum in the Kharkiv region.
In an address to the nation marking 200 days since the start of Russia’s offensive, Zelenskiy thanked Ukrainian forces for “liberating hundreds of our towns and villages … and most recently Balaklia, Izum and Kopyansk,” three key centers. giving the name which had recently been captured by Kievan troops.
The withdrawal marked the biggest battlefield success for Kyiv’s forces since they had thwarted a Russian attempt to capture the capital Kyiv at the start of the war.
The official reason for the withdrawal was a strategic “regrouping” of units.
In the worst defeat for Moscow’s forces since they were pushed back from the outskirts of the capital Kyiv in March, thousands of Russian troops left behind ammunition and equipment as they fled the city of Izum, which they used as a logistics hub. used to
On Sunday, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, criticized the Russian military’s performance over the weekend.
Ukraine’s army chief said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces are pushing north into the Kharkiv region and making advances to its south and east.
Zelensky hailed the attack as a potential breakthrough in the six-month-old war, and said Kyiv could make more territorial gains in the winter if it gets more powerful weapons.
Ukraine’s strategic successes in the east have provided evidence of its forces’ capabilities to an “unconvinced” international community, observers have said.
“This is a strategic victory for Ukraine – far more significant than the defeat of the Russians in Kyiv in March,” Frank Ledwidge of the University of Portsmouth told Al Jazeera.
He said it was strategic because it showed the Ukrainians could impose losses on the Russians.
“But it’s also a demonstration of their skills and combined arms warfare, and bringing together the equipment and training they’ve acquired over the past few months to take back an area of land that April is much more than what the Russians are occupying.”
“This is very important and it shows the Ukrainians’ ability to cheat,” he added. “This is an intelligence coup and a remarkable demonstration of Russian incompetence, particularly in the realm of intelligence.”