Russia uses winter as a weapon to try to subjugate Ukraine | International

Russia deploys a new weapon in the Ukrainian war: winter. The heaviest bombing campaign since the start of the war in February and March mainly targeted critical infrastructure in Ukraine’s electricity generation and distribution network, damaging 40% of the country’s power generation capacity as temperatures drop. Ukrainian authorities have called Moscow’s tactic of inflicting suffering on the civilian population a war crime.

Since last Monday, sustained attacks have been launched daily by Russian forces on civilian targets and infrastructure using cruise missiles and suicide drones. The intensity of the bombing campaign has diminished over the past few days, but it remains active. On the first day of this latest campaign, October 10, Russian forces fired 80 missiles into Ukrainian territory, about half of which were intercepted by Kyiv’s air defense systems, according to the Ukrainian General Staff. The following day, that number fell to 28 cruise missiles, backed by 13 Iranian-produced Shahed 136 drones.

Firefighters work to put out a fire in an apartment building hit by shelling in Kyiv’s Obolon district. AFP

Putin: large-scale attacks now finalized

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday the large-scale attacks were now over after Moscow reported the destruction of 20 military and energy infrastructure targets. However, airstrikes continued to hit strategic electricity supply targets on Saturday in Ukraine’s two major cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv, as well as in Zaporizhzhia, which is about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the front lines. and was the target of Russian strikes. since three weeks ago.

Herman, Ukrainian Energy Minister Haluschenko said last Tuesday that about 30% of the country’s power generation network had been targeted by Russian airstrikes. This percentage had risen to 40% on Thursday, according to an analysis by the Ukrainian Reference Center for Energy Research (DiXi). Ukraine has suspended energy exports to the European Union due to power cuts in cities such as Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine and Kharkiv and Dnipro in the east. Ukrenergo, the state-owned company that manages and operates Ukraine’s electricity grid, said that since Wednesday it had managed to bolster supply and prevent any outages, and while it expects that to remain the case , she called on the population to reduce their consumption. when possible.

In a statement released on Friday, Ukrenergo called on Ukrainians to do everything possible to reduce their consumption. By October 12, the day after the two largest waves of strikes, overall consumption had been reduced by only 4%, according to the company. A day later, that number was even smaller, at 2.2%. “We remind everyone that responsible and economical electricity consumption is an opportunity for the complete repair of networks, helping to balance the energy system and our contribution to the fight against the enemy,” Ukrenergo said.

DiXi senior analyst Roman Nitsovich said that in addition to damage to 40% of the country’s power generation capacity, “hundreds of miles of electricity and gas grids” had also been compromised by the Russian strikes. Nitsovich also confirmed that all Ukrainian oil refineries had been destroyed. Since the summer, lines of oil tankers importing fuel have formed on the border between Ukraine and Poland. Large depots belonging to major Ukrainian oil companies have been systematically disabled by Russian attacks since the start of the invasion.

A total of 20 Ukrainian provinces were bombed by Russia this week. Even Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine and 700 kilometers (430 miles) from the nearest frontline, has been badly affected. The majority of Lviv’s population of more than 700,000 was without power for two days as Moscow targeted power substations in the region. The largest fuel storage plant serving the city, which was destroyed by Russian Kalibr precision missiles in March, was located in central Lviv.

Ukraine currently depends on the production of electricity by coal-fired power plants, a natural resource that the country has in abundance. It is also an area that has been repeatedly targeted by Russian strikes over the past two months. In September, after Kyiv launched its counteroffensive on the eastern and southern fronts, Moscow launched missile attacks on power plants in major cities, including Kharkiv. The two largest coal mines still under Ukrainian control, located near Kryvyi Rih, were attacked last week when the electricity and water supply systems needed to operate them were destroyed. Three combined heat and power plants have also been damaged in Kyiv in recent days, as well as a thermal power plant in Vinnytsia and another in Ivano-Frankivsk.

Power cuts were not widespread because apart from a few electrical substations, Russian strikes did not completely destroy Ukraine’s energy supply facilities and Ukrenergo worked around the clock to repair the damage caused. There is, however, a fundamental lack of resources such as water, electricity and gas in the majority of towns and villages close to the front lines, especially in the Donbass region.

Nitsovich said in his report that Ukraine has reserves of 14 billion cubic meters of natural gas and two million tons of coal to weather the winter. However, according to the expert, if Moscow continues its attacks on the electricity network, international aid will be vital for the supply of emergency equipment such as mobile boilers, generators and water purification systems.

A message to Ukraine’s richest man

Moscow also sent a message last week to Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s wealthiest individual and owner of several major companies, including DTEK, the country’s largest energy investment fund. The headquarters of DTEK, one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in downtown Kyiv, was hit by Russian airstrikes on October 10 during the first wave of bombardment. Akhmetov, who was born in the recently illegally annexed region of Donetsk, has been a strong supporter of Kyiv’s liberation war against the Kremlin despite his long political and economic ties to Russia. Akhmetov filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in June for the destruction of the Azovstal steel plant, owned by DTEK, in Mariupol – and the death of its defenders – one of the acts of Kyiv’s most iconic challenges during the early stages. of the invasion. Russian daily Pravda estimated in a report published on October 3 that Akhmetov has lost about half of his fortune since 2014, when pro-Russian separatists backed by Moscow launched an insurgency in the Donbass, via the expropriation of assets.

Putin justified last week’s massive shelling as retaliation for the partial destruction of the Kerch Bridge on October 8, the only land link between Russia and the illegally annexed region of Crimea and an important logistical and symbolic infrastructure for expansionist designs. from Moscow. . However, in an article published by the Atlantic Council think tank, the Ukrainian-American organization Razom said the latest offensive was premeditated: “The scale of these attacks indicates weeks or months of preparation. Dozens of targets in towns and villages across Ukraine had to be identified and confirmed; missiles, bombers, warships and drones had to be mobilized and prepared. These are not actions that can materially be prepared in just two days,” Razom said.