Ukraine scrambles to restore power as Russia ‘weaponises winter’

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Ukrainian energy workers on Thursday raced to restore power after Russian missile strikes destroyed energy infrastructure across western Ukraine, leaving more than two thirds of Kyiv without power. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield has accused Moscow of “weaponising winter” and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for urgent UN action against the Russian “formula of terror”. Follow FRANCE 24’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

11:42am: Russian attacks create real danger of ‘catastrophe’, says Ukraine’s nuclear energy boss

Russia caused a “real danger of a nuclear and radioactive catastrophe” by launching attacks in which all Ukraine’s nuclear reactors were disconnected from the power grid for the first time in 40 years, Ukraine’s nuclear energy chief said.

Petro Kotin, head of nuclear power company Energoatom, said in a statement Thursday that the vast nuclear power plant in the Zaporizhzhia region had been reconnected to the national power grid after Russian air strikes on Wednesday, and that the backup diesel generators at the site had been turned off.

11:04am: Offered German air defence system, Poland says it should be for Ukraine 

Polish leaders say that an air-defense system which Germany offered Poland would be best given to Ukraine to help it protect itself against Russian strikes. 

Germany said earlier this week that it offered Warsaw Eurofighter planes and Patriot defense systems to help defend Poland’s airspace after two men were killed when an apparently stray Ukrainian defense projectile fell in Poland near the border with Ukraine.

Poland’s Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak initially said he received Germany’s offer with “satisfaction.” 

But following Russia’s heavy barrage of Ukraine on Wednesday, Polish leaders said it would be better if the defense systems were placed in western Ukraine.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Warsaw, Vasyl Zvarych, thanked Blaszczak, saying on Twitter that Ukraine needs as many air defense weapons as it can get.

Poland’s apparent decision not to accept the German Patriot system met with some criticism from the opposition in Poland. Marcin Kierwinski of the opposition Civic Platform party said Kaczynski “has gone mad” for “rejecting” the Patriot missiles and EU funding “during war and crisis.”

10:54am: Gas price cap divides EU energy ministers’ meeting

EU energy ministers met Thursday to debate measures to mitigate the energy crunch in Europe but were divided over a gas price cap proposal slammed by many as a “joke”.

They were to discuss a proposal by the European Commission, unveiled just two days earlier, that would set a cap on gas prices at 275 euros per megawatt hour.

Yet at least 15 EU countries — more than half the bloc — want some form of workable ceiling on wholesale gas prices to tackle a crunch in supply forced by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

While the European Union hasn’t banned Russian gas, the Kremlin has been turning off the taps in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Brussels in the wake of Moscow’s invasion. 

10:40am: Moscow says it has issued over 80,000 Russian passports in ‘annexed’ Ukraine

Moscow said on Thursday it had issued more than 80,000 Russian passports to residents of four Ukrainian territories since President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed the regions last month.

“Since the addition … of the four regions into the Russian Federation, and in accordance with the legislation, more than 80,000 people received passports as citizens of the Russian Federation,” Valentina Kazakova, a migration official with the interior ministry, said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies. 

In September, Russia held so-called referendums in four regions of Ukraine – Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – and said residents had voted in favour of becoming subjects of Russia.

10:37am: EU preparing 9th Russia sanctions package, EU chief von der Leyen says

The European Union is pressing ahead with a ninth sanctions package on Russia in response to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said during a visit to Finland on Thursday.

10:12am: Ukraine nuclear plants reconnected to grid after strikes, says energy ministry

All three nuclear power plants still under Ukrainian control have been reconnected to the electricity grid, Ukraine’s energy ministry said Thursday, after Russian strikes a day earlier forced them to automatically disconnect.

“After yesterday’s massive shelling, energy workers were able to unify the power system and reconnect three nuclear power plants to the power grid by morning,” the ministry said on social media, adding that they should start supplying electricity by “this evening”.

10:02am: Russia says no contacts planned with United States

Russia is not planning contact with the United States and did not initiate contact with Washington at the G20 summit in Indonesia, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday.

He added that contacts with Washington happen over the phone but that they take place through diplomatic channels and not at a presidential level.

9:50am: Contacts with IAEA over Zaporizhzhia plant are ‘constructive’: Russia

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said contacts with the UN nuclear watchdog over safety at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant were “constructive” and showed some promise.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, which Russia seized shortly after its February 24 invasion, was again rocked by shelling last weekend, prompting renewed calls from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to create a protection zone around it to prevent a nuclear disaster.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog met a Russian delegation in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss safety at the plant, with both Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of shelling.

9:42am: Most Kyiv residents without power, heating, water supply

More than two thirds of the Ukrainian capital is still without power Thursday morning with residents struggling without electricity, heating and running water, a day after Russian missile strikes caused Kyiv’s biggest outages in nine months of war.

The temperature plunged below zero degrees Celsius overnight in a city that had 2.8 million residents before the war and where it has already snowed, leaving the streets icy.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said electricians and repair workers were doing everything to get the power back on “as fast as possible” but the recovery would depend largely on the overall energy “balance” of the nationwide grid.

Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said three nuclear power stations that were switched off because of the attacks on Wednesday were expected to be back on line later on Thursday, and this would help ease supply problems.

12:47am: Zelensky appeals to UN Security Council over Russian strikes on infrastructure

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to the United Nations Security Council late Wednesday to take action to stop Russian air strikes targeting vital infrastructure that have once again plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.

Russia unleashed a missile barrage across Ukraine earlier in the day, forcing shutdowns of nuclear power plants and killing civilians in Kyiv. 

“Today is just one day but we have received 70 missiles. That’s the Russian formula of terror,” Zelensky said via video link to the council chamber in New York, adding that hospitals, schools, transport infrastructure and residential areas had been hit.

Ukraine is waiting to see “a very firm reaction” to Wednesday’s air strikes from the world, he added.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Putin was “clearly weaponising winter to inflict immense suffering on the Ukrainian people.”

The Russian president “will try to freeze the country into submission,” she added.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

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