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Ukraine slams Russia for attacks on critical infrastructure in Kharkiv

Ukraine has accused Russian forces of attacking civilian infrastructure in response to a rapid weekend offensive by Ukrainian troops that drove Russia to abandon its main bastion in the Kharkiv region.

Ukrainian officials said targets of the retaliatory attacks included water facilities and a thermal power station in Kharkiv, and that they caused widespread blackouts.

“No military facilities, the goal is to deprive people of light and heat,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Twitter late on Sunday.

The US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, also denounced the strikes.

“Russia’s apparent response to Ukraine liberating cities and villages in the east: sending missiles to attempt to destroy critical civilian infrastructure,” Brink tweeted.

Moscow denies its forces deliberately target civilians.

Zelensky has described Ukraine’s offensive in the northeast as a potential breakthrough in the six-month-old war, and said the winter could see further territorial gains if Kyiv received more powerful weapons.

In the worst defeat for Moscow’s forces since they were repelled from the outskirts of the capital Kyiv in March, thousands of Russian soldiers left behind ammunition and equipment as they fled the city of Izium, which they had used as a logistics hub.

Ukraine’s chief commander, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said the armed forces had regained control of more than 3000 square kilometres since the start of this month.

Moscow’s almost total silence on the defeat – or any explanation for what had taken place in northeastern Ukraine – provoked significant anger among some pro-war commentators and Russian nationalists on social media.

Russia Putin
Camera IconRussian nationalists are calling for President Vladimir Putin to ensure ultimate victory in Ukraine. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

Some on Sunday called for President Vladimir Putin to make immediate changes to ensure ultimate victory in the war.

Zelensky on Sunday said Russian attacks caused a total blackout in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, and partial blackouts in the Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy regions.

“They are unable to reconcile themselves to defeats on the battlefield,” Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the president’s office, posted an image on Telegram of electrical infrastructure on fire but added power had been restored in some regions.

Ukrainian servicemen prepare to fire at Russian positions (file image)
Camera IconUkrainian forces have moved on Russia’s main bastion in northeastern Ukraine in a shock advance. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov described Sunday’s attacks as “cynical revenge” for the success of Ukrainian troops at the front, particularly in Kharkiv.

Ukraine’s gains are important politically for Zelensky as he seeks to keep Europe united behind Ukraine – supplying weapons and money – even as an energy crisis looms this winter following cuts in Russian gas supplies to European customers.

Zelensky said Ukrainian forces would continue to advance.

“We will not be standing still,” he said in a CNN interview recorded on Friday in Kyiv.

“We will be slowly, gradually moving forward.”

Oleksii Reznikov
Camera IconDefence Minister Oleksii Reznikov says Ukrainian forces could be encircled if they advance too far. (EPA PHOTO) Credit: EPA

Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine needed to secure retaken territory against a possible Russian counter-attack on stretched Ukrainian supply lines.

He told the Financial Times that Ukrainian forces could be encircled by fresh Russian troops if they advanced too far.

But he said the offensive had gone far better than expected, describing it as a “snowball rolling down a hill”.

“It’s a sign that Russia can be defeated,” he said.

As the war entered its 200th day, Ukraine on Sunday shut down the last operating reactor at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant to guard against a catastrophe as fighting rages nearby.

Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling around the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia plant, risking a release of radiation.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said a backup power line to the plant had been restored, providing the external electricity it needed to carry out the shutdown while defending against the risk of a meltdown.

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