WRAPUP 6-Ukraine says half of energy system crippled by Russian strikes, fighting rages in east

WRAPUP 6-Ukraine says half of energy system crippled by Russian strikes, fighting rages in east

Updated: 11 days, 16 hours, 41 minutes, 33 seconds ago

Successive waves of Russian missile strikes have crippled almost half of Ukraine's energy system, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Friday, as heavy fighting raged in areas in the east and south of the country. With temperatures falling and the capital Kyiv seeing its first snow flurries of the winter, authorities were working to restore power nationwide after some of the heaviest bombardment of Ukraine's civilian infrastructure during nine months of war.

The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian disaster in Ukraine this winter due to power and water shortages. "Unfortunately Russia continues to carry out missile strikes on Ukraine's civilian and critical infrastructure. Almost half of our energy system is disabled," said Shmyhal.

He was speaking at a joint news conference with a vice-president of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, who was visiting Kyiv to discuss emergency EU financial aid for Ukraine in the coming months. Earlier, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said about 10 million people were currently without power, in a country with a pre-war population of about 44 million. He said authorities in some areas ordered forced emergency blackouts.

"The aggressor country has officially recognized that its goal is to destroy our energy infrastructure and leave Ukrainians without electricity and heat," said Ukraine's national grid operator Ukrenergo on the Telegram messaging app. It said Russia had launched six large-scale missile attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure from Oct. 10 until Nov. 15.

Russia's defence ministry said on Friday its forces had used long-range weapons on Thursday to strike defence and industrial facilities, including "missile manufacturing facilities". Ukrainian forces in the past 24 hours downed two Russian cruise missiles, five air-launched missiles and five Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones, Ukraine's military said.

Reuters was unable to verify battlefield reports. 'ROBBED'

Russian forces have plundered areas of the southern Kherson region that are now back under Ukrainian control following a recent counter-offensive, said the deputy head of President Zelenskiy's administration. "After a trip to the... Kherson region, one thing became clear - our people there need a lot of help. The Russians not only killed and mined but also robbed all the cities and villages. There is practically nothing there," Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Telegram.

A Reuters witness heard explosions in the centre of Kherson city on Friday morning and saw black smoke rising from behind buildings. Police blocked off access but the commotion did not seem to faze hundreds of people on the central square as they queued for humanitarian aid. The square had been a frenetic melee of humanitarian aid queues and displays of patriotism on Thursday as residents celebrated their liberation from months of Russian occupation but the mood was also one of deep uncertainty.

"We're fine, but we don't know what to expect. Nothing is over yet. On that (east) bank of the river, the (Russian) forces are gathering. On this side, they are gathering. We are in the middle," said Ihor, 48, an unemployed builder. Investigators in liberated areas of Kherson region have uncovered 63 bodies bearing signs of torture after the Russian forces left, Ukraine's interior minister was quoted as saying.

The Ukrainian parliament's human rights commissioner, Dmytro Lubinets, released a video of what he said was a torture chamber used by Russian forces in the Kherson region, including a small room in which he said up to 25 people were kept at a time. Reuters was unable to verify the claims made by Lubinets and others in the video. Russia denies its troops deliberately attack civilians or have committed atrocities.

Mass burial sites have been found in other parts previously occupied by Russian troops, including some with civilian bodies showing signs of torture. Russia has moved some troops from Kherson to reinforce its positions in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Ukraine's military said Russian forces had fired artillery on the towns of Bakhmut and nearby Soledar in the Donetsk region, among others.

Russian fire also hit Balakliya in northeastern Kharkiv region, which Ukraine recaptured in September, and Nikopol, a city on the opposite bank of the Kakhovka reservoir from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, the statement said. CRISIS

In the first known high-level, face-to-face U.S.-Russian contact since the invasion of Ukraine, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief William Burns delivered a cautionary message this week during talks in the Turkish capital Ankara about the consequences for Moscow of any use of nuclear weapons. Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan told Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Friday that the Ankara talks had helped to prevent "uncontrolled" escalation in the field.

Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow did not rule out further high-level meetings with the United States on "strategic stability", a term used to mean reducing the risk of nuclear war. But Ryabkov also said there was nothing to talk about with Washington on the subject of Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said any summit between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden was "out of the question at the moment".

Separately, Interfax quoted Ryabkov as saying on Friday that Russia hopes it can make a prisoner swap with the United States that would include convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the "Merchant of Death". Russia and the United States are exploring a prisoner swap that would see imprisoned Americans including basketball star Brittney Griner return home in exchange for Bout.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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