Ukrainian forces push towards Kherson, Kyiv orders power cuts
- National restrictions limited to one day for now
- Further damage to critical infrastructure, says Zelenskiy
- The battle for the southern city of Kherson looms
Oct 20 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s military tightened the noose around Russian forces occupying the southern city of Kherson on Thursday as the government ordered to limit nationwide electricity consumption due to missile attacks and of Russian drones against power plants.
In Kherson, the only regional capital that Russian forces have captured since their invasion eight months ago, the Russian-appointed administration has begun the evacuation of a town that controls the only land route to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014, and the mouth of the Dnipro River.
On Wednesday, Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-backed administration in Kherson, wrote on Telegram that Ukraine had launched an offensive against Novaya Kamianka and Berislav in the Kherson region.
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While Ukraine has remained tight-lipped about its operations, its military said in a Thursday morning update on the Kherson region that 43 Russian servicemen had been killed and six tanks and other equipment destroyed.
Reuters was unable to verify reports from the battlefield.
Footage of people fleeing by boat on the Dnipro River was broadcast by Russian state television, which described the exodus as an attempt to evacuate civilians before it became a combat zone.
About 50,000 to 60,000 people would be displaced in the next six days, said Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed leader in Kherson, while saying Russia had the resources to hold the city and even counterattack if necessary.
While gaining ground on the front lines, Ukraine assessed the cost of Russia’s long-range strikes deep into its territory.
The government on Thursday imposed restrictions on the use of electricity across the country for the first time since Russia invaded following a flurry of attacks on power stations just before the start of Winter.
Electricity supply will be limited between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., government officials and grid operator Ukrenergo said, and temporary blackouts were possible if people did not minimize their electricity use, a presidential aide said. .
“We do not rule out that with the onset of cold weather, we will ask you for your help even more frequently,” Ukrenergo said, referring to the restriction limited to Thursday.
Russia has intensified its missile and drone attacks against Ukraine’s electricity and water infrastructure in recent days.
“There is new damage to critical infrastructure. Three energy installations were destroyed by the enemy today,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his Wednesday evening video address.
“We assume that Russian terror will be directed against energy installations until, with the help of partners, we are able to shoot down 100% of enemy missiles and drones,” said Zelenskiy, who said more earlier in the week a third power station had been hit by Russian airstrikes.
Zelenskiy was due to address a European summit on Thursday. Leaders of the 27 member states will discuss options for increased support for Ukraine, including energy equipment, assistance in restoring power supply and long-term funding for reconstruction.
DRONE STRIKES, GRAIN WORDS
Reuters witnesses said five drones struck the southern city of Mykolaiv on Thursday, but it was unclear where they exploded or how much damage was caused.
Ukraine accuses Russia of using Iranian-made “Shahed-136 suicide drones”, which fly towards their target and explode. Iran denies providing them and the Kremlin has denied using them.
The United States, Britain and France raised the issue of Iran’s alleged transfer of drones to Russia at a meeting of the UN Security Council, the department’s spokesman said of State, Ned Price.
Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy told reporters that Russia would reassess its cooperation with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his team if Guterres sent experts to Ukraine to inspect downed drones that , according to Ukraine and the West, were made in Iran.
Polyanskiy said he was not optimistic about reaching a deal with Guterres and other UN officials in talks to extend and expand a July 22 deal that led to the resumption of exports grain and fertilizer from the Black Sea. The pact could expire next month.
Meanwhile, the United States has imposed new sanctions on Russia, targeting a network it accuses of sourcing military and dual-use technology from American manufacturers for Russian users.
ON THE EASTERN FRONT
In eastern Ukraine, on the border with Russia, forces from Moscow have focused their main attempted advance on the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, the Ukrainian military said.
Bakhmut is at the center of Russia’s slow advance in the Donetsk region. The armed forces trained tank and artillery fire on at least 10 towns in the region, including Bakhmut, Soledar and Bilohorivka, the Ukrainian army said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded an all-Russian war effort and on Wednesday declared martial law in areas of Ukraine occupied by his forces.
Zelenskiy warned Ukrainians in occupied areas against any Russian attempt to conscript them into the army, saying they should try to leave.
“If you can’t do it and you end up in Russian military structures, at the first opportunity, try to lay down your weapons and come to Ukrainian positions,” he said.
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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Grant McCool, Lincoln Feast and Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Stephen Coates
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