Following this month’s counteroffensive, in which Ukraine has regained control of much of the Kharkiv region, a Russian missile strike damaged critical civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, leaving five regions without power and threatening outages for the entire country. Responding to the strike and to Russia’s common assertion that Ukrainians and Russians are one people, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that darkness and cold were less frightening than Russian “friendship and brotherhood.”
On the evening of September 11, five regions of Ukraine were fully or partially without electricity. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the office of the president, said the lights are out in Kharkiv, Sumy, Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk, and Donetsk regions. In some regions problems with the water supply have also arisen. “Power outages may occur throughout the country. The Russians want to leave us without electricity, water, or heat” said Tymoshenko.
According to Tymoshenko, outages occurred after “two cruise missiles hit critical infrastructure in Kharkiv.” Mikhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the office of the president, said that Russia hit TEC-5 in Kharkiv, one of the largest heat and power plants in Ukraine. According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, at least one person has been killed and another is missing.
According to Tymoshenko, in some regions water and electricity have been restored but in others problems continue. In the Kharkiv region, including in and around the city of Kharkiv, power was gradually being restored.
RIA Novosti reported at the time that in Donetsk, which is under control of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, there were no issues with electricity supply.
During a war it is difficult to verify information disseminated by parties to the conflict.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said after the outages that it was impossible to consider Russians and Ukrainians one people. He called the rocket strikes “cynical” and the power outages “an act of terrorism,” posting on Telegram:
Even through impenetrable darkness Ukraine and the civilized world see these acts of terrorism clearly. Deliberate, cynical missile strikes on civilian critical infrastructure. No military targets. The Kharkiv and Donetsk regions are without power. In Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk, and Sumy there are issues with food supply.
Do you still believe that we are one people? Do you still think that you can frighten, crush, and bend us into submission? You really understand nothing? You don’t realize who we are? What we are for? What we are about? Read my lips: No gas or no you? No you. No lights or no you? No you. Cold, hunger, darkness, and thirst – for us these are less frightening and less deadly than your friendship and brotherhood. But history will arrange everything. And we will have gas, electricity, water, and food – and we won’t have you.
Zelensky’s office believes that the attack is connected to the Russian retreat from the Kharkiv region. Podolyak called the strike “a cowardly response to its own army’s escape from the field of battle.” After the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) launched a counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region on September 5, Russian troops began a retreat and, according to the Russian defense ministry, have left most of the region. The ministry called it not a retreat but “an organization to curtail and organize transfer of troops” to “intensify efforts in the direction of Donetsk.”
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On September 11 Valery Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of the UAF, said that since the beginning of September Ukraine had regained control of more than 1,150 square miles (3,000 square km) of territory. The American Institute for the Study of War says that amounts to more territory than the Russian army seized in April. By Meduza’s calculations on September 10 the UAF had liberated an area of around 1,600 square miles (4,200 square km) since the beginning of the month (if Izyum and the settlements around it, which Russian troops reportedly left, can be considered liberated).