Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the United Nations Security Council to act against Russia over airstrikes against civilian infrastructure plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.
Russia unleashed a barrage of missiles over Ukraine on Wednesday, killing 10 people, shutting down nuclear plants and cutting off water and electricity supplies in many places.
“Today is only one day, but we have received 70 missiles. That’s the Russian formula of terror. This all goes against our energy infrastructure… Hospitals, schools, transportation, residential areas have all suffered,” Zelenskyy said via video link to the council chamber.
Ukraine was waiting for “a very firm response” to Wednesday’s airstrikes from around the world, he added.
It is unlikely that the council will take any action on the appeal, as Russia is a member with veto power.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “obviously using winter as a weapon to inflict immense suffering on the Ukrainian people”.
The Russian president “will try to freeze the country into submission,” she added.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya responded by complaining that it was against council rules for Zelensky to appear via video, and rejected what he called “reckless threats and ultimatums” from Ukraine and its supporters in the West.
Nebenzya said damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure was caused by missiles fired by Ukrainian air defense systems that crashed into civilian areas after firing at Russian missiles, and called on the West to stop supplying Kiev with air defense missiles.
The capital Kiev was one of the main targets of the rocket attacks on Wednesday. “Today we had three hits on high-rise apartment buildings. Unfortunately, 10 people died,” said Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky. The Reuters news agency said it could not independently verify the report.
Explosions echoed throughout Kiev as Russian missiles crashed and Ukrainian air defense missiles were fired to intercept them.
“Our little one was sleeping. Two years old. She slept, she was covered. She’s alive, thank God,” said a man who gave his name as Fjodr, walking away from a smoldering apartment building that was hit in Kiev, dragging a suitcase.
The entire region of Kiev, home to more than three million people, has lost electricity and running water, the governor of Kiev said. Much of Ukraine faced similar problems, and some regions implemented emergency power cuts to save energy and make repairs.
Early Thursday, Zelenskyy said power and other services will be reconnected in more areas. “Energy specialists, municipal workers, emergency services are working around the clock,” he said in a video address.
Since October, Russia has acknowledged that it has targeted Ukraine’s civilian power grid far from the frontline as a Ukrainian counter-offensive has recaptured territory from Russian occupiers to the east and south.
Moscow says the aim of its missile strikes is to weaken Ukraine’s ability to fight and force it into negotiations. Kiev says the attacks on infrastructure amount to war crimes, deliberately designed to harm civilians and break national will.
That won’t happen, Zelenskyy promised in an earlier video address posted on the Telegram messaging app.
“We will renew everything and endure all this, because we are an unbreakable people,” he said.
Ground fighting continues to rage in the east, where Russia is conducting an offensive along a stretch of frontline west of the city of Donetsk, which has been held by its proxies since 2014.
The General Staff of Ukraine said Russian troops were again trying to advance on their main targets in the Donetsk region – Bakhmut and Avdiivka. Russian forces shelled both areas and used incendiary bombs to burn Ukrainian positions with only limited success, the general staff said.
Among those fighting the Russians in Bakhmut is a unit of Chechen fighters, who hope that a Ukrainian victory could spark a political crisis in Russia and bring down Chechnya’s powerful pro-Moscow leader.
“We don’t just fight for the fight. We want to achieve freedom and independence for our nations,” said one fighter using the nom de guerre Maga.
Further south, Russian forces dug in on the east bank of the Dnieper River, the general staff said, shelling areas on the west bank, including the city of Kherson, which was recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces.
Reuters could not immediately verify the battlefield reports.
Moscow says it is conducting a “special military operation” to protect Russian speakers in what Putin calls an artificial state carved out of Russia. Ukraine and the West are calling the invasion an unprovoked land grab.
Western responses include billions of dollars in financial aid and state-of-the-art military hardware for Kiev and waves of punitive sanctions against Russia.