Kyiv’s mayor has told residents to consider leaving the capital in the event of a complete blackout.
Urging residents to “consider everything” including a worst-case scenario where the capital loses power and water, Vitali Klitschko said he could not rule out the prospect of a total loss of power.
“If you have extended family… or friends outside Kyiv, where there is autonomous water supply, an oven, heating,” he said in a television interview, “please keep in mind the possibility of staying there for a certain amount of time”.
“His task is for us to die, to freeze, or to make us flee our land so that he can have it. That’s what the aggressor wants to achieve,” he added, accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure.
In recent weeks, Russia has focused on striking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, causing power cuts and rolling outages across the country.
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The Ukrainian president said the country was braced for further Russian attacks in his nightly video address, adding that more than 4.5 million people were already without power.
“The terrorist state is concentrating forces and means for a possible repetition of mass attacks on our infrastructure,” said Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“First of all, energy.”
President Zelenskyy called on Ukrainians to endure the hardships, saying: “We must get through this winter and be even stronger in the spring than now.”
Kyiv was having hourly rotating blackouts in parts of the city and the surrounding region on Sunday.
Other key developments
• Ukrainian officials are working to identify bodies found in mass graves in Kharkiv
• The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station has been reconnected to Ukraine’s power grid
• Russia is losing military aircraft more quickly than it can replace them, says the UK Ministry of Defence in its latest intelligence update
National energy authorities have warned of further planned outages but also possible further restrictions in Kyiv and the region around it.
Rolling blackouts are also planned in the Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Kharkiv and Poltava regions, Ukraine’s state-owned energy operator, Ukrenergo, said.
Sergei Kovalenko, CEO of YASNO, a major supplier of energy to Kyiv, said Ukraine is currently facing a 32% deficit in projected power supply.
“This is a lot, and it’s force majeure,” Mr Kovalenko said on his Facebook page.
As Russia intensifies its attacks on the capital, Ukrainian forces are pushing forward in the south.
Russian forces are reportedly preparing for a Ukrainian counteroffensive to seize back the southern city of Kherson, which was captured during the early days of the invasion, and have told civilians to leave for the city’s right bank immediately.
Russia has been “occupying and evacuating” Kherson simultaneously, trying to convince Ukrainians they are leaving when in fact they’re digging in, Nataliya Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Forces, told state television.
“There are defence units that have dug in there quite powerfully, a certain amount of equipment has been left, firing positions have been set up,” she said.
In October, President Putin signed laws absorbing four Ukrainian regions following so-called referenda in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which were rejected as a sham by Ukraine and the West.
The areas annexed are not even under full control of Russian forces.
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In the Donetsk city of Bakhmut, 15,000 remaining residents are living under daily shelling and without water or power, according to local media reports.
“The destruction is daily, if not hourly,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, the region’s Ukrainian governor.
The city has been under attack for months, but the bombardment has picked up in recent days.