Infrastructure strikes - Ukraine government prepares to evacuate Kherson

22 November 2022

For nearly two months the BBC and various news agencies have been reporting air strikes as far west as Kyiv on the Ukraine’s energy and water delivery infrastructure.

Now the Ukrainian government is preparing to help evacuate residents from the front line cities of Kherson and Mykolaiv, where attacks on electricity and heating infrastructure have raised fears of a coming humanitarian crisis. At least a dozen Russian shells exploded on 20 November at Zaporizhzhya, a major nuclear plant in the region, an attack reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In the days since Russian forces retreated from Kherson, the Ukrainian government has scrambled to rebuild vital infrastructure. As temperatures begin to fall, the first traces of power have reappeared in the city.

On 20 October Amnesty International characterised the attacks as a war crime.

“Russian attacks on energy facilities in Ukraine over recent days have led to a nationwide blackout in the country” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “The strategy behind Russia’s latest warfare tactics is unmistakable. In bombing Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure, including energy facilities, the Russian army clearly intends to undermine industrial production, disrupt transportation, sow fear and despair and deprive civilians in Ukraine of heat, electricity and water as the cold grip of winter approaches.

“Russia’s targeting of Ukrainian civilian infrastructure is unlawful. The morale of the civilian population is not a lawful target, and carrying out these attacks with the sole purpose of terrorising civilians is a war crime.

On 18 November online news agency Vox reported that Russian strikes have devastated Ukraine’s energy networks as winter approaches, and asks if Ukraine’s infrastructure can survive the winter. Kyiv residents prepare for daily blackouts. They’re typically staggered by neighbourhood; four hours off, four hours on, like that, all day.

A version of this exists in other regions in Ukraine – Chernihiv, Sumy and elsewhere, many of which, like Kyiv, faced a barrage of Russian air strikes during October that targeted civilian and energy infrastructure such as power substations and transmission lines. In those attacks, about 400 targets in 16 regions were damaged, including dozens of energy facilities, according to Ukrainian officials at the time.

On 16 November, Russia launched another round of strikes, about 90 missiles hitting at least 15 energy facilities across Ukraine. This from a statement by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy “Burnt residential buildings,  destroyed power plants again, hundreds of cities left without electricity, water, and heat”.

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