Power being partially restored in Russian-occupied Kherson

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian-appointed authorities say they are working to partially restore power in the occupied Ukrainian city of Kherson following what they have called a Ukrainian “terrorist attack” on power lines.

The southern city in the region that Moscow illegally annexed in September was cut off from power and water supplies on Sunday following damage to three power lines.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the pro-Kremlin administration of the partially occupied Kherson region, said Monday that “power and connectivity is being partially restored” in Kherson city. The alleged attack occurred on the Berislav-Kakhovka power line, and Russian state media reported on Sunday that the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station had also been damaged by Ukrainian strikes.

Ukrainian officials haven’t responded to the allegations.

Stremousov has repeatedly called for civilians to evacuate from Kherson — which lies on the western bank of the Dnieper River — to Russian-controlled territory on the eastern bank in anticipation of a major Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake the strategic port city.

Tens of thousands of civilians have already left the regional capital after being ordered to evacuate the area in October in the face of the Ukrainian counteroffensive which has retaken around 88 settlements in the region, or around 13% of territory previously held by Russian forces.

A daily update from Ukraine’s presidential office on Monday said that Russian soldiers in plainclothes have been moving into apartments in Kherson that civilians had left during the evacuation. One Kherson resident told The Associated Press that Russian military personnel were going door to door, checking property deeds and forcing tenants to leave immediately if they can’t prove ownership of apartments.

Last month, Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that occupying Russian forces in the Kherson region had been purposefully shutting off electricity and water and depriving the population of internet access in order to force them to evacuate.

Yet on Monday, the region’s Russian-installed administration announced it was halting “the movement of civilian vehicles across the Dnieper by water and pontoon ferry,” citing “increased military danger” and threats to civilians.

Russia has focused on striking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure over the last month, causing power shortages and rolling outages across the country. The capital, Kyiv, was having hourly rotating blackouts Sunday in parts of the city and the surrounding region.

Ukraine’s state-owned electricity grid operator Ukrenergo on Monday announced additional power outages in the Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Sumy, Kharkiv, Poltava and Zhytomyr regions.

To repair the energy system, experts say that Ukraine needs high-voltage transformers and distribution and communication equipment, and that the deliveries must be systematic.

“It is important that there are constant, not one-time deliveries,” Gennadii Riabtsev, chief researcher on energy security at the National Institute for Strategic Studies, told the AP.

The first delivery of high voltage transformers from the European Union is expected in the coming weeks, but this supply isn’t enough to significantly improve the situation, he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation Sunday that about 4.5 million people were without electricity across the country. He called on Ukrainians to endure the hardships, saying, “we must get through this winter and be even stronger in the spring than now.”

Meanwhile, in another annexed region, Donetsk, Russian-installed officials accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the regional capital, also called Donetsk, with HIMARS rocket launchers early on Monday.

The city’s Kremlin-backed mayor, Alexei Kulemzin, said a fire broke out in an administrative building of the Donetsk Railways, but that the blaze had been contained and there were no casualties. Ukrainian authorities have not commented on the incident. The city of Donetsk has been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

In Ukrainian-controlled territory, Russian shelling over the past 24 hours killed at least three civilians and wounded seven more, according to a Monday statement from Ukraine’s presidential office.

The office’s deputy head, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said that Russian strikes in the Zaporizhzhia region targeted civilian objects including a cultural center, farmers’ warehouses and private residences.

The official noted that the Zaporizhzhia region — also illegally annexed by Russia in September but not fully controlled by Russian forces — was shelled 52 times over the past 24 hours, and one person was killed. Two cities near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant — Marhanets and Myrove — were shelled by heavy artillery and currently remain without power.

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