December 2, 2022

Ukraine warns of more Russian attacks on energy infrastructure

Ukraine warns of more Russian attacks on energy infrastructure

  • Russia may be preparing for more attacks on energy infrastructure – Zelensky
  • 4.5 million Ukrainians without electricity as winter approaches
  • Biden aide held talks with senior Russian officials
  • Report: US urges Ukraine to open up to talks with Russia

Kyiv/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Sunday of further possible Russian attacks on his country’s energy infrastructure, as officials urged residents in the capital, Kyiv, to consider making plans to leave as ongoing strikes threaten electricity supplies.

In his usual evening address, Zelensky said that Russia is “concentrating forces and means to replicate possible mass attacks on our infrastructure. First of all, energy.”

More than 4.5 million consumers are without electricity, Zelensky said, amid fears that support for the Ukraine cause may fade as the effects of the war on energy and food prices continue into the winter.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who traveled to Kyiv on Friday and pledged Washington’s “unwavering and unwavering” support for Ukraine, has held unannounced talks with Russian officials aimed at avoiding further escalation, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

News of these contacts emerged after a report that Washington was urging Kyiv to indicate its openness to talks with Russia.

Presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolak earlier said on Twitter that Ukraine would “stand up” despite Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure, adding that this would be done with air defense, infrastructure protection and improved consumption.

Sergei Kovalenko, CEO of YASNO, a major energy supplier to the capital, said on his Facebook page that the country faced a 32 percent shortfall in the projected energy supply on Monday.

The warnings followed comments by Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko urging residents to “think of everything” including the worst-case scenario where the capital loses electricity and water.

He said in a television interview that residents should consider staying with friends or family outside the city.

In the south, Russia and Ukraine continued to exchange claims as Ukrainian advances continued into the southern city of Kherson. Reuters was not immediately able to verify accounts of the battlefield from either side.

Yaroslav Yanushevich, governor of the Kherson region, said that Russian forces destroyed about 1.5 kilometers of power lines, cutting off electricity to the city of Pereslav.

“It is likely that there will be no electricity in Pereslav until it is completely liberated from occupation,” Janusevich wrote on the Telegram messaging app, adding that power lines leading to Kherson were also destroyed.

Russian news agencies reported, on Sunday, that the vast Ukrainian Nova Kakhovka dam controlled by Russia, at the source of Kherson on the Dnipro River, was damaged by the bombing of Ukrainian forces. The reports did not provide any evidence to support the claim, which Reuters could not immediately verify.

The Russian state-owned TASS quoted a representative of the emergency services as saying that a missile fired by the US-made Hemars missile system hit and damaged the dam lock. The newspaper quoted the official as saying that it was an “attempt to create the conditions for a humanitarian disaster” by breaching the dam.

Diplomacy

The warnings came as the Wall Street Journal reported that Sullivan had held secret talks in recent months with Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov and Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev that were not publicly disclosed.

Few high-level contacts between US and Russian officials have been announced in recent months as Washington has insisted that any talks on ending the war in Ukraine take place between Moscow and Kiev.

The White House declined to comment on the report, responding to questions about the story only with a statement attributed to National Security Council spokeswoman Adrian Watson: “People are asking for a lot of things.”

On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that the Biden administration is particularly encouraging Ukraine to express an openness to negotiation with Russia, with the State Department saying that Moscow is escalating the war and is not seriously interested in engaging in peace talks.

The newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying that the request by US officials was not intended to bring Ukraine to the negotiating table, but rather a calculated attempt to ensure that Kyiv retains the support of other countries.

The newspaper said US and Ukrainian officials acknowledged that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ban on talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised concerns in parts of Europe, Africa and Latin America, where the effects of the war on food and fuel costs have been most severe.

It quoted an unnamed US official as saying that “the fatigue in Ukraine is a real thing for some of our partners.”

Zelensky signed a decree on October 4 officially declaring any Ukrainian talks with Putin “impossible” but leaving the door open for talks with Russia.

There was no immediate comment from the White House National Security Council on the accuracy of the report.

A State Department spokesperson responded: “We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Actions speak louder than words. If Russia is ready to negotiate, it should stop its missiles and missiles and withdraw its forces from Ukraine.”

Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Michael Perry and Simon Lewis; Editing by William Mallard, William Maclean and Diane Craft

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.