Ukrainian officials said the targets included hydropower facilities and a thermal power plant. Reuters
Kyiv / Kharkiv, Ukraine:
Ukraine accused Russian forces of attacking civilian infrastructure in response to a swift attack by Ukrainian forces at the weekend that prompted Russia to abandon its main stronghold in the Kharkiv region.
Ukrainian officials said the targets of the retaliatory attacks included water facilities and a thermal power plant in Kharkiv, and that they caused widespread blackouts.
“There are no military installations, the goal is to deprive people of light and heat,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Twitter late Sunday.
The US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, also condemned the strikes.
“Russia’s clear response to Ukraine’s liberation of cities and villages in the east: Sending missiles to try to destroy vital civilian infrastructure,” Brink wrote on Twitter.
Moscow denies that its forces deliberately target civilians.
Describing the Ukrainian offensive in the northeast as a potential breakthrough in the six-month-old war, Zelensky said the winter could see more territorial gains if Kyiv gets more powerful weapons.
In the worst defeat for Moscow’s forces since their expulsion from the outskirts of the capital Kyiv in March, thousands of Russian soldiers left behind ammunition and equipment as they fled the city of Izyum, which they used as a logistics hub.
Ukraine’s armed forces chief, General Valery Zaluzhny, said the armed forces had regained control of more than 3,000 square kilometers (1,158 square miles) since the beginning of this month.
Moscow’s almost complete silence about the defeat – or any explanation for what happened in northeastern Ukraine – has sparked outrage among some pro-war commentators and Russian nationalists on social media. Some on Sunday called on President Vladimir Putin to make immediate changes to ensure eventual victory in the war.
Zelensky said late on Sunday that the Russian attacks had caused total power outages in Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, and partial power outages in Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy regions.
“They are not able to come to terms with defeats on the battlefield,” Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentin Reznichenko wrote in Telegram.
And Kirillo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, posted a photo on a telegram burning in the electrical infrastructure, but additional power was restored in some areas.
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekov described Sunday’s attacks as “a cynical revenge” for the success of Ukrainian forces at the front, particularly in Kharkiv.
Ukraine’s gains are politically significant for Zelensky, as he seeks to keep Europe united behind Ukraine – in providing arms and money – even as this winter’s energy crisis approaches after cutting off Russian gas supplies to European customers.
Zelensky said Ukrainian forces would continue to advance.
“We will not stand idly by,” he said in an interview with CNN recorded Friday in Kyiv. “We will move forward slowly and gradually.”
“Snowball rolling down a hill”
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Ukraine needed to secure the regained territory against a possible Russian counter-attack on the extended Ukrainian supply lines. He told the Financial Times that Ukrainian forces could be surrounded by new Russian forces if they advanced too far.
But he said the attack went much better than expected, describing it as “a snowball rolling off a hill.”
“It is a sign that Russia can be defeated,” he said.
Kyiv-based military analyst Ole Zhdanov said the gains could bring another boost to the Luhansk region, which Russia claimed was captured at the beginning of July.
“If you look at the map, it is logical to assume that the attack will develop in the direction of Svatov-Starobilsk, and Severodonetsk-Lyschansk,” he said.
On Saturday, TASS news agency reported that the head of the Russian administration in Kharkiv had asked residents to evacuate the province and flee to Russia. Witnesses described traffic jams with people leaving the territory controlled by Russia.
Leonid Bashnik, President of the Luhansk People’s Republic, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that Ukrainian forces have been trying to penetrate that area, which has been controlled by Russian forces since July.
“The Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups did not stop their attempts to infiltrate the republic’s territory with the aim of provoking and intimidating our citizens,” he said, adding that “there was no retreat from the positions occupied by the republic.”
Washington appeared to be taking a cautious public stance, as the Pentagon referred Reuters to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s comments on Thursday about Kyiv’s “encouraging” battlefield successes.
The British Ministry of Defense said, on Sunday, that fighting continued around the city of Izyum and the city of Kobyansk, the only railway hub that extends Russia’s front line through northeastern Ukraine, which Ukrainian forces have regained control.
Nuclear reactor shuts down
As the war entered its 200th day, Ukraine on Sunday shut down the last working reactor at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant to guard against disaster as fighting raged nearby.
Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of bombing around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhia station, threatening to release radiation.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said a backup power line for the plant has been restored, providing the external electricity it needs to implement the shutdown while protecting against the risks of collapse.
French President Emmanuel Macron told Putin in a phone call on Sunday that the occupation by Russian forces of the factory was the reason his security was endangered, the French presidency said. Putin blamed Ukrainian forces, according to a Kremlin statement.
(This story has not been edited by the NDTV crew and is automatically generated from a shared feed.)