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Russian air strikes cause blackouts in Ukraine

Ukraine’s state electricity operator has announced blackouts in the capital Kyiv and seven other regions of the country following Russia’s devastating attacks on energy infrastructure.

The move comes as Russian forces continue to pound Ukrainian cities and towns with missiles and drones, inflicting damage on power plants and water supplies, in a grueling war that is nearing its nine-month mark.

Ukrenergo, the sole operator of Ukraine’s high-voltage transmission lines, initially said in an online statement on Saturday that scheduled blackouts will occur in the capital and the greater Kyiv region, as well as in several regions around it: Chernihiv , Cherkassy, ​​Zhytomyr, Sumy, Poltava and Kharkiv.

However, later in the day, the company released an update saying that outages scheduled for a specific number of hours are not enough, and instead there will be emergency outages, which could last indefinitely.

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Ukraine has been dealing with power outages and water supply disruptions since Russia began launching missile and drone attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure last month.

The attacks came after Moscow suffered a series of battlefield defeats in northeastern Ukraine and an explosion at the Kerch Bridge, which links occupied Crimea with mainland Russia. The region was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

Russia has denied that the drones it has used against Ukraine came from Iran. But Iran’s foreign minister acknowledged for the first time on Saturday that he had supplied Moscow with “a limited number” of drones before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

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However, Hossein Amirabdollahian claimed that Tehran did not know if its drones were used against Ukrainian targets and affirmed Iran’s commitment to stop the conflict.

Later on Saturday, Ukraine warned Iran that “the consequences of complicity” with Moscow would “outweigh the benefit.”

“Tehran must realize that the consequences of complicity in the crimes of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine will far outweigh the benefit of Russia’s support,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko wrote on Facebook.

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Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said Western signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal claim Iran’s sale of drones to Russia is a violation of the deal, which the United States withdrew from in 2018.

“Under the agreement, the Iranian government cannot sell or import any advanced military equipment or technology,” he said.

Jabbari also said that the ban in question, which was put in place in 2007, expired in October 2020.

“Iranian officials say that the excuses put forward by Western powers are ridiculous,” Jabbari said.

Russian attacks continue

The Russian bombardment of the Ukrainian regions continued until early Saturday morning.

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About 40 shells were fired overnight in the city of Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said on Telegram. Russian forces attacked the city and its surroundings with heavy artillery. Two fires broke out and more than a dozen residential and utility buildings, as well as a gas pipeline, were damaged, the official said.

Elsewhere in the region, Ukrainian forces shot down a drone and another projectile, according to Reznichenko.

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In the southern Mykolaiv region, nightly shelling of rural areas damaged several houses, but caused no casualties, Mykolaiv Governor Vitali Kim said on Telegram.

Russian forces also fired missiles at the southeastern region of Zaporizhia, which has been illegally annexed by Moscow and much of which remains occupied. According to the regional governor, Oleksandr Starukh, the attack took place shortly after midnight and damaged the buildings of three companies and several cars.

In the eastern Donetsk region, also annexed and partially occupied by Russia, eight cities and towns have been bombed, including Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Porkovsk.

Russian-installed authorities in Donetsk reported an attempt on the life of a Moscow-appointed Supreme Court judge in the region. Alexander Nikulin, who was part of a judicial panel that in June sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan fighting on the Ukrainian side to death, was hospitalized with gunshot wounds and is in serious condition, Kremlin-backed officials said.

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According to Ukraine’s presidential office, at least three civilians were killed and eight others wounded in the past 24 hours by Russian shelling of nine Ukrainian regions, using drones, missiles and heavy artillery.

In the Russian-occupied Kherson region, where a Ukrainian counteroffensive is taking place, the Russian military continues to kidnap local residents, the presidential office said, with the most recent cases taking place in the past 24 hours.

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