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Russian Barrage Targets Power, Water and Heat for Ukraine’s Civilians - New York Times – 18.10.22

The stepped-up attacks on cities, including through the heavy use of Iranian-made exploding drones, threaten a new sort of humanitarian crisis for Ukrainians this winter. Report from Megan Specia and Andrew E. Kramer.

KYIV, Ukraine — From towns near the front lines to high-rises in the capital, Ukrainians faced shortages of electricity, water and heat on Tuesday as Russia’s bombardment of civilian targets and infrastructure threatened millions of people with the prospect of a desolate winter without basic services.

The Russian barrage heralds a new phase of the war — even as the Kremlin’s forces struggle on the battlefield, they have stepped up efforts to inflict suffering from afar. Civilians and infrastructure have been targets since the start of the invasion, but Russia has sharply increased long-range strikes deep into Ukraine, focusing on vital utility networks whose collapse would yield a new kind of humanitarian disaster there.

Since Oct. 10, the Russian attacks have destroyed 30 percent of Ukraine’s power stations and caused “massive blackouts across the country,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday. Residents are being urged — in some cases, forced by circumstances — to conserve water and energy. Business are turning off illuminated signs, and billboards are no longer lit up at night.

A government minister, Oleksii Chernyshov, said 408 sites in Ukraine had been struck in that time, including 45 energy facilities. Many of the attacks have also hit thermal energy plants that generate steam for heating homes and businesses.

“The destruction of houses and lack of access to fuel or electricity due to damaged infrastructure could become a matter of life or death if people are unable to heat their homes,” Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, the World Health Organization’s director for Europe, said on Friday.

The United Nations resident coordinator for Ukraine, Denise Brown, told CNN on Tuesday that the devastation threatened “a high risk of mortality during the winter months.”

In parts of Kyiv, the capital, the authorities warned people not to drink tap water, which was running cloudy after it was compromised by airstrikes on Monday. In another neighborhood, a field kitchen was set up to provide food for those without water or electricity. People lined up at stores to fill bottles with fresh water, and electricity suppliers warned that the city would continue to experience blackouts while repairs were underway.

In one neighborhood on the outskirts of the northern city of Chernihiv, residents said there had been several days in a row when electricity was turned off from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. to conserve energy. At a restaurant in the city, a waiter apologized to patrons about the dim lighting that left menus barely visible, noting that the establishment was complying with a request to turn off unnecessary lights.

In the central city of Zhytomyr, electric trolleys and trams were shut down because there was no electricity to run them, and the mayor said the hospitals were running on emergency backup generators. In some high-rises, the water pressure was so low that only the first few floors had running water.

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Reporting was contributed by Richard Pérez-Peña from New York, Eric Schmitt from Washington, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, and Michael Schwirtz and Oleksandra Mykolyshyn from Kyiv, Ukraine.

Megan Specia is a correspondent on the International Desk in London, covering the United Kingdom and Ireland. She has been with The Times since 2016. @meganspecia

Andrew E. Kramer is a reporter covering the countries of the former Soviet Union. He was part of a team that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting for a series on Russia’s covert projection of power. @AndrewKramerNYT

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 19, 2022, Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Winter Miseries Loom as Kremlin Targets Utilities. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Rescue workers on Monday combed through the rubble of a building in Kyiv, Ukraine, that was hit by an exploding drone. Credit...Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

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