Leo Correa / AP
KYIV, Ukraine – Russia attacked power stations and other infrastructure on Sunday, causing widespread blackouts across Ukraine by Kyiv’s forces. hit a quick counterattack that pushed Moscow’s army out of the territory it had occupied in the northeast.
The shelling caused a massive fire at a power plant on the western outskirts of Kharkiv and left at least one person dead. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced “deliberate and suspicious missile attacks” on civilian targets as acts of terrorism.
Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv appeared to be without electricity on Sunday night. Cars drive through the darkened streets, and a few pedestrians use flashlights or cell phones to light the way.
Separately, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the Russian-occupied south completely closed in an attempt to prevent a radioactive disaster when hostilities were raging nearby.
Kyiv’s actions in recent days to retake Russian-occupied areas of the Kharkiv region have forced Moscow to withdraw its troops to avoid encirclement, leaving substantial quantities of weapons and ammunition in one flight. hurry like the fight marks the 200th day on Sunday.
The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, General Valerii Zaluzhnyy, said his forces had recaptured about 3,000 square kilometers (1,160 square miles) since the counter-offensive began in early September. He said the Ukrainian army was just a short distance away. Russian border 50 km (about 30 miles).
One battalion shared video of Ukrainian forces in front of a municipal building in Hoptivka, a village just over a mile from the border and about 19 kilometers (12 mi) north of Kharkiv.
Kharkiv Governor Oleh Syniehubov said the Ukrainian army had regained control of more than 40 settlements in the area.
In the wake of Russia’s Sunday night missile attacks, the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions appeared to bear the brunt. Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia and Sumy were only partially without power, Zelenskyy said.
Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov called the blackout “the Russian aggressor’s revenge for the successes of our troops at the front, especially in the Kharkiv region.”
Ukrainian officials said Russia had attacked Kharkiv TEC-5, the country’s second-largest thermal power plant, and Zelenskyy had posted a video of the Kharkiv power plant on fire.
“Russian terrorists are still terrorists and attack critical infrastructure. No military facilities, only goal is to leave people without light and heat,” he wrote. on Twitter,
But Zelenskyy still defied the attacks. Addressing Russia, he added: “You still think you can threaten, break us, force us to make concessions? … Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst are not scary to us and die with your friendship and brotherhood.” But history will put everything in its rightful place. And we’ll have gas, lights, water and food… and NO you! “
By late evening, some power had been restored in some areas. None of the incidents are believed to be related to the shutdown of the reactors at the Zaporizhzhia plant.
While most attention has been focused on the counterattack, Ukraine’s nuclear energy regulator said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, has been reconnected to Ukraine’s power grid, allowing The engineers shut down their last working reactor to protect it in battle.
The plant, one of the 10 largest nuclear power plants in the world, has been occupied by Russian troops since the early days of the war. Ukraine and Russia have blamed the shelling around it.
Since a fire on September 5 due to shelling knocked the plant off transmission lines, the reactor is powering critical safety equipment in a so-called “moderate” mode. island mode” – an unreliable mode that makes the plant increasingly vulnerable to potential nuclear accidents.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog with two experts at the site, welcomes the restoration of external power. However, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said he was “deeply concerned about the situation at the plant, which remains dangerous until any shelling resumes.”
He said negotiations have begun on establishing a safe and secure zone around it.
In a phone call Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron urged the withdrawal of Russian troops and weapons from the plant in accordance with the recommendations of the IAEA.
Moscow’s withdrawal of forces in recent days marks the biggest success on the battlefield for Ukrainian forces since they thwarted a Russian attempt to capture Kyiv near the start of the war. Operation Kharkiv seemed to take Moscow by surprise; it relocated many of its troops from this area to the south in anticipation of a counterattack there.
Yuriy Kochevenko, of the 95th brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, tweeted a video from what appeared to be the Izyum hub. The city was considered an important command and supply center for Russia’s northern front.
“Everything around was destroyed, but we will restore everything. Izyum was, is, and will be Ukraine,” Kochevenko said in his video, which shows the central square empty and buildings damaged. destroy.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian troops had also left several settlements in the Kherson region in the south of the country, as Kyiv’s forces pushed for a counter-offensive. It does not define regions.
But an official with the Russian-backed government in Kherson city, Kirill Stremousov, said on social media that the northern city of Crimea remained safe and asked everyone to stay calm.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that the withdrawal of troops from Izyum and other areas is aimed at strengthening Moscow’s forces in the neighboring Donetsk region to the south. The explanation is similar to how Russia justified its withdrawal from Kyiv earlier this year.
But Igor Strelkov, who led Russian-backed forces when the separatist conflict in the Donbas broke out in 2014, mocked the Russian Defense Ministry’s explanation for the withdrawal, arguing that the handover of the territory Russia’s own near the border is a “contribution to Ukraine’s settlement.”
The retreat angered Russian military bloggers and nationalist commentators, who saw it as a major defeat and urged the Kremlin to step up its war efforts. Many criticized the Russian authorities for continuing to display fireworks and other lavish festivals in Moscow, marking a city holiday on Saturday despite the failed situation in Ukraine.
In Moscow, Putin attended the opening of a giant ferris wheel in a park on Saturday, and also inaugurated a new transport route and a sports arena. The action underscores the Kremlin’s account that the war, which it calls a “special military operation,” went as planned without affecting the daily lives of Russians.
Pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov has criticized the Moscow festivities as a grave mistake.
Markov wrote on his messaging app channel: “Fireworks in Moscow on a day of Russian military defeat will have extremely serious political consequences.” “Authorities must not celebrate when people are in mourning.”
In a sign of a potential rift in the Russian leadership, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya, said the withdrawal was due to the mistake of Russian brass.
“They made a mistake and I think they will draw the necessary conclusions,” Kadyrov said. “If they do not make a change in the strategy of conducting special military operations in the next day or two, I will be forced to contact the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and the leadership of the country to explain the actual situation. . “
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the head of NATO warned on Friday that the war could drag on for months, urging the West to continue supporting Ukraine through a difficult winter.
Daniel Fried, a former US ambassador to Poland and now a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said Ukraine’s battlefield interests will come in handy as the Biden administration continues to seek financial support. for the war effort from Congress and its Western allies.
“The policy of the Biden administration is evolving in a more and more rational direction,” Fried said.