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Ukraine Rattled as Russian Attacks Hit Energy Infrastructure

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(Bloomberg) — Explosions rattled Kyiv on Wednesday and Ukraine enacted emergency power cuts amid reports of a new barrage of Russian missile attacks across the country.

Ukraine’s power grid operator said it had deliberately shut off power in every district and authorities from cities across the eastern European nation reported blackouts and halted mass transport lines.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military is deliberately targeting energy infrastructure in an attempt to crush the will of the Ukrainian people in the wake of major battlefield setbacks for Moscow in recent months. More than 10 million Ukrainians — about a quarter of the pre-war population — were left without power earlier this month as temperatures plunged below freezing. 

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“Energy terror continues,” Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said on Telegram. “We will withstand. They won’t break us.”

The World Health Organization warned on Tuesday that millions of lives are at risk this winter due to damaged or destroyed infrastructure.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko and other authorities said emergency services had been deployed after multiple blasts sounded in districts across the capital. Kyiv has to prepare for the worst scenario which would involve a wide-reaching blackouts when temperatures drop further, Klitschko told the German newspaper Bild.

“We won’t just take our things and flee to the West, like Putin wants,” he told Bild. 

Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv suspended use of the city subway lines and electric overground transport, the city council said on Facebook. In the western city of Lviv, power was cut and water outages may also be expected, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on Telegram.

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The state railway company said power was halted on stretches of track in Kyiv, south-central Dnipro and Mykolayiv, Lviv in the west and Sumy and Kharkiv in the northeast.

Zelenskiy’s government is preparing a network of emergency aid stations across the country to help citizens endure mass blackouts that could drag on for days if Russia continues large-scale attacks on energy infrastructure, the president said late Tuesday. 

Russian attacks have caused damage exceeding $1.9 billion to Ukrainian power infrastructure, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said, while the head of the electricity grid said no thermal or hydro-power facility had been left unscathed.

Ukrainian officials have encouraged the millions of their countrymen who have fled abroad to escape the violence to stay away to help reduce the strain on Ukraine’s energy resources. 

In neighboring Moldova, Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu said the country was suffering massive power outages after the strikes in Ukraine. Last week, the country suffered extensive blackouts when one of its power lines was automatically disconnected as a safety measure after Russian strikes on infrastructure in Ukraine.

(Updates with context, quote starting in third paragraph.)

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