Ukraine’s Kyiv mayor rebuffs Zelenskyy criticism amid energy woes

The energy deprivation facing Ukrainians has renewed tensions between Ukraine’s president and Kyiv’s mayor amid a looming power crisis and the winter period setting in.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Sunday defended himself against allegations levelled by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that too many Kyiv residents were still without power and that centres that had been set up for them to stock up on food, water, battery power and other essentials were insufficient

Klitschko wrote on Telegram that hundreds of such centres are in operation, as well as hundreds of emergency generators, adding that “I do not want, especially in the current situation, to enter into political battles. It’s ridiculous.”

Klitschko, who had been mired in several disputes with Zelenskyy before the invasion, said the president’s allies had engaged in “manipulation” about the city’s efforts, including “incomprehensible photos” posted online.

Local residents shovel snow as a work of world-renowned graffiti artist Banksy is displayed on the wall of a destroyed building in the Ukrainian village of Horenka [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

“To put it mildly, this is not nice. Not for Ukrainians or for our foreign partners,” Klitschko said.

In his nightly video address on Friday, Zelenskyy said the Kyiv mayor had not done enough to help beleaguered residents.

“To put it mildly, more work is needed,” he added.

After a blistering series of Russian artillery strikes on infrastructure that started last month, workers were fanning out in around-the-clock deployments to restore key basic services as many Ukrainians were forced to cope with only a few hours of electricity per day – if any.

Ukrenergo, the state power grid operator, said Sunday that electricity producers are now supplying about 80 percent of demand, compared with 75 percent the previous day.

Winter impact

With persistent snowfall blanketing the capital on Sunday, analysts predicted that wintry weather – bringing with it frozen terrain and gruelling fighting conditions – could have an increasing effect on the conflict that has raged since Russian forces invaded Ukraine more than nine months ago.

Both sides were already bogged down by heavy rain and muddy battlefield conditions, experts said.

The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank that has been closely monitoring developments in Ukraine, said reporting from both sides indicated that heavy rain and mud have had an effect – along with wider freezing expected along the front lines in the coming days.

“It is unclear if either side is actively planning or preparing to resume major offensive or counter-offensive operations at that time, but the meteorological factors that have been hindering such operations will begin lifting,” it said in a note published Saturday.

A Ukrainian service member works at an M777 Howitzer at a front line, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Donetsk Region, Ukraine November 23, 2022
A Ukrainian service member works by an M777 Howitzer along the front line, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Donetsk Region, Ukraine, on November 23, 2022 [Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Serhii Nuzhnenko via Reuters]

‘Time is of the essence’

Russian forces struck eastern and southern Ukraine early Sunday as civilians continued to leave the southern city of Kherson because of the devastation wreaked by recent attacks and their fears of more ahead.

Kherson city, which was liberated more than two weeks ago – a development that Zelenskyy called a turning point in the war – has faced intense shelling in recent days by Russian forces nearby.

The top UN official in Ukraine said civilians, many of whom lamented unlivable conditions and feared more strikes to come, continued to pour out of Kherson on Sunday.

Resident walk amid debris after a Russian attack in Kherson, southern Ukraine [Bernat Armangue/AP Photo]

“The level of destruction, the scope of the destruction, what’s required in the city and in the oblast – it’s massive,” said UN resident coordinator Denise Brown, referring to the region. UN teams were ferrying in supplies like food, water, shelter materials, medicines, and blankets and mattresses, she said.

“Time is of the essence, of course, before it becomes an absolute catastrophe,” Brown told The Associated Press in Kherson.

In the eastern Donetsk region, five people were killed in shelling over the past day, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

Overnight shelling was reported by regional leaders in the Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk areas to the west. In addition, he said two people were killed in artillery firing on the town of Kurakhove.

The city of Kryvyi Rih in the south of Ukraine was also hit by a Russian shelling attack, local authorities said.

Two missiles destroyed a transport infrastructure facility in the morning, military governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on the Telegram news channel, without providing further details.

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