By Associated Press
Russia attacked power stations and other infrastructure Sunday, causing widespread outages across Ukraine as Kyiv’s forces pressed a swift counteroffensive that has driven Moscow’s troops from swaths of territory it had occupied in the northeast.
The bombardment ignited a massive fire at a power station on Kharkiv’s western outskirts and killed at least one person. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced the “deliberate and cynical missile strikes” against civilian targets as acts of terrorism.
Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv appeared to be without power Sunday night. Cars drove through darkened streets, and the few pedestrians used flashlights or mobile phones to light their way.
Separately, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the Russia-occupied south completely shut down in a bid to prevent a radiation disaster as fighting raged nearby.
Kyiv’s action in recent days to reclaim Russia-occupied areas in the Kharkiv region forced Moscow to withdraw its troops to prevent them from being surrounded, leaving behind significant numbers of weapons and munitions in a hasty flight as the war marked its 200th day on Sunday.
Ukraine’s military chief, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyy, said its forces had recaptured about 3,000 square kilometres (1,160 square miles) since the counteroffensive began in early September. He said Ukrainian troops are only 50 kilometres (about 30 miles) from the Russian border.
One battalion shared a video of Ukrainian forces in front of a municipal building in Hoptivka, a village just over a mile from the border and about 19 kilometres (12 miles) north of Kharkiv.
Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said Ukrainian troops have reclaimed control of more than 40 settlements in the region.
In Sunday night’s missile attacks by Russia, the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions seemed to bear the brunt. Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia and Sumy had only partially lost power, Zelenskyy said.
Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov called the power outage “revenge by the Russian aggressor for the successes of our army at the front, in particular, in the Kharkiv region.”
Ukrainian officials said Russia hit Kharkiv TEC-5, the country’s second-biggest heat and power plant, and Zelenskyy posted video of the Kharkiv power plant on fire.
“Russian terrorists remain terrorists and attack critical infrastructure. No military facilities, only the goal of leaving people without light and heat,” he tweeted,
But Zelenskyy remained defiant despite the attacks. Addressing Russia, he added: “Do you still think you can intimidate, break us, force us to make concessions? … Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst for us are not as scary and deadly as your `friendship and brotherhood.’ But history will put everything in place. And we will be with gas, lights, water and food … and WITHOUT you!”
Later in the evening some power had been restored in some regions. None of the outages were believed to be related to the shutdown of the reactors at the Zaporizhzhia plant.
While most attention focused on the counteroffensive, Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, was reconnected to Ukraine’s electricity grid, allowing engineers to shut down its last operational reactor to safeguard it amid the fighting.
The plant, one of the 10 biggest atomic power stations in the world, has been occupied by Russian forces since the early days of the war. Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for shelling around it.
Since a Sept. 5 fire caused by shelling knocked the plant off transmission lines, the reactor was powering crucial safety equipment in so-called “island mode” — an unreliable regime that left the plant increasingly vulnerable to a potential nuclear accident.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog that has two experts at the site, welcomed the restoration of external power. But IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said he is “gravely concerned about the situation at the plant, which remains in danger as long as any shelling continues.”
He said talks have begun on establishing a safety and security zone around it.
In a call Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron urged the withdrawal of Russian troops and weaponry from the plant in line with IAEA recommendations.
The pullback of Moscow’s forces in recent days marked the biggest battlefield success for Ukrainian forces since they thwarted a Russian attempt to seize Kyiv near the start of the war. The Kharkiv campaign seemed to take Moscow by surprise; it had relocated many of its troops from the region to the south in expectation of a counteroffensive there.
Yuriy Kochevenko, of the 95th brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, tweeted a video from what appeared to be central Izyum. The city was considered an important command and supply hub for Russia’s northern front.
“Everything around is destroyed, but we will restore everything. Izyum was, is, and will be Ukraine,” Kochevenko said in his video, showing the empty central square and destroyed buildings.