Cold and powerless, Ukraine urges UN to punish Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called on the United Nations to punish Russian air strikes on civilian infrastructure after a series of missiles caused the country’s worst power cuts so far, plunging cities into freezing darkness.

With millions of Ukrainians facing sub-zero temperatures, authorities were hard at work on Thursday to restart lights and heating. Russia’s latest missile strike killed 10 people, knocked out Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and left much of the country without power.

As of Thursday morning, regional authorities in Kiev said power had been restored to three-quarters of the capital and that water was working again in some areas. Transport is also back up and running in the capital.

Authorities had expected to restart the three nuclear power plants in the Ukrainian-controlled territory by the end of the day.

Since early October, Russia has been launching massive air strikes about once a week on power targets across Ukraine.

Moscow acknowledges attacking basic infrastructure, saying its aim is to reduce Ukraine’s combat capability and pressure it to negotiate. Kiev says such attacks are clearly intended to injure civilians, making them a war crime.

“Today is just one day, but we have received 70 missiles. This is the Russian formula for terror. All this against our energy infrastructure,” Zelenskiy said overnight via a video link to the UN Security Council chamber.

“Hospitals, schools, transport, residential neighborhoods all suffered,” he said, urging the United Nations to act to stop the attacks.

There was no prospect of action from the Security Council, where Russia has veto power. Moscow’s UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said it was against council rules for Zelenskiy to appear via video and rejected what he called “reckless threats and ultimatums” from Ukraine and its backers in the West.

In an evening speech to Ukrainians, Zelenskiy declared: “We will rebuild everything and overcome everything because we are an indestructible people.”

Ukraine says it is shooting down most missiles and restoring most power in one day, but that each of these strikes causes worse damage and greater hardship for civilians.

“If Moscow truly believes that the power outage will cause Ukrainians to overthrow the government and beg for mercy, then after nine months of war the Kremlin still knows absolutely nothing about Ukraine,” tweeted Zelenskiy’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak.

Winter arrived abruptly in Ukraine and temperatures were well below freezing in the capital, a city of three million people. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “clearly using winter as a weapon to inflict immense suffering on the Ukrainian people”.

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

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