Ukraine is forced to restrict power supply as grid damage takes its toll

Russian President Vladimir Putin has introduced martial law in four of Ukraine’s regions, parts of which are under the control of Russian troops, as Ukrainian forces continue to liberate occupied territories in the east of the country despite a new barrage of aerial attacks across the country.

Putin said during a online session of the Security Council on October 19 that he signed a decree declaring martial law in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya in Ukraine – which Russia illegally annexed last month.

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He did not immediately outline what action would be taken under martial law, but said his order was effective from midnight on October 20. His executive order gives law enforcement three days to submit specific proposals.

The package of measures, which comes nearly eight months after the start of the Kremlin-launched war in late February, marked the latest escalation by Putin to counter a string of defeats against Ukrainian forces since early September.

By extending the decree to areas beyond Ukraine, the move ensures that more Russians, already angered by a military mobilization announced last month, will feel the consequences of the war more deeply in their own lives.

Mykhaylo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, called Putin’s decision a “pseudo-legalization of the looting of Ukrainian property.”

“It doesn’t change anything for Ukraine: we are pursuing the liberation and disoccupation of our territories,” Podolyak said. tweeted shortly after Putin announced martial law in all four Ukrainian regions.

US President Joe Biden, speaking at the White House, said Putin was trying to get Ukraine to give up.

“I think Vladimir Putin is in an incredibly difficult position and what that tells me is that it seems like his only tool at his disposal is to bully Ukrainian citizens…to try to intimidate them into They’re not going to do that,” Biden said.

US State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel earlier said the declaration of martial law was a desperate tactic and that any Russian claim to the regions was “illegitimate”.

Putin’s move came as the Russian-installed leader in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region said the evacuation had begun of tens of thousands of civilians and Moscow-appointed officials in the face of a Ukrainian military advance.

Vladimir Saldo said 50,000 to 60,000 civilians would leave four towns on the west bank of the Dnieper in an “organized and gradual displacement” over the next five or six days.

The entire Moscow-based administration in the city of Kherson would also be evacuated, Saldo said.

Russian television showed footage of a number of people queuing for boats on the bank of the Dnieper, although it was not immediately clear how many were leaving. The forcible transfer or deportation of the civilian population by an occupying power from territory under its control is considered a war crime.

Saldo’s statements came after General Sergei Surovikin, the new commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, said the situation in the southern city of Kherson was “difficult” and that residents facing Ukrainian shelling had to be evacuated.

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“The Russian military will first and foremost ensure the safe evacuation of the population” from Kherson, Surovikin said.

But Kyiv on Oct. 19 accused Russia of staging a propaganda broadcast to “scare” Kherson residents.

“The Russians are trying to scare the people of Kherson with false messages about the bombing of the city by our army and also organize a propaganda show with evacuation,” wrote the chief of staff of the Ukrainian president, Andriy Yermak, on Telegram. .

Kherson was the first major city to fall to Russian forces in February after an unprovoked invasion of Moscow began, but Ukrainian forces have steadily retaken neighboring territory in recent weeks.

They pushed up to 30 kilometers south along the Dnieper River, threatening to trap Russian troops.

Meanwhile, new explosions were heard in Kyiv and other areas on October 19, with a missile strike hitting a major thermal power plant in the western Ukrainian city of Burshtyn.

The Burshtyn coal-fired power station in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, which supplies electricity to three western regions and five million consumers, was hit and set on fire, according to Svytlana Onysshchuk, the regional governor. There were no casualties in the strike at the factory, which was also hit by four missiles nine days earlier.

Serhiy Borzov, governor of the Vinnytsya region in western Ukraine, said Russia also carried out attacks on energy facilities in his region. Russian shelling also cut off electricity and water to parts of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhya region on October 19, said Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of the southern town near the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant which has been a flashpoint of the nearly eight-month conflict.

A power plant in Kryviy Rih, a city in south-central Ukraine, was also badly damaged by Russian shelling, leaving villages, towns and a city district without power, the regional governor reported.

Russian forces also targeted the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine again with suicide bombers in early October 19.

The Ukrainian army’s Southern Command said in a statement on October 19 that its forces shot down 12 drones overnight.

More than a week of airstrikes destroyed almost a third of Ukraine’s power plants and knocked out electricity in more than 1,000 settlements.

As Ukraine gains momentum in the war that is now almost eight months old, European lawmakers on October 19 recognized the country’s “brave” citizens by awarding them the 2022 Sakharov Prize.

“This award is for Ukrainians who are fighting on the ground. For those who have been forced to flee. For those who have lost relatives and friends. For all who stand up and fight for what they believe in. I know the brave people of Ukraine will not give up and neither will we,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said in the statement.

The annual award is named after Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov and was established in 1988 by the European Parliament to honor individuals and organizations that defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.

With reporting from Reuters, AP and AFP

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