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Ukraine accuses Russia of attacking power grid in revenge for offensive

KYIV/KHARKIV, Ukraine, September 12 (Reuters) – Ukraine has accused Russian forces of attacking civilian infrastructure in response to a rapid offensive by Ukrainian troops at the weekend that prompted Russia to abandon its main stronghold in the Kharkov region.

Ukrainian officials said the targets of the retaliatory attacks included water facilities and a thermal power plant in Kharkiv, and they caused widespread blackouts.

“No military installations, the goal is to deprive people of light and heat,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter on Sunday evening.

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US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink also denounced the strikes.

“Russia’s apparent response to Ukraine’s liberation of towns and villages in the east: sending missiles in an attempt to destroy critical civilian infrastructure,” Brink tweeted.

Moscow denies that its forces deliberately target civilians.

Zelenskiy described Ukraine’s offensive in the northeast as a potential breakthrough in the six-month war, and said the winter could see further territorial gains if Kyiv received stronger weapons.

In the worst defeat for Moscow forces since being pushed back from the outskirts of the capital Kyiv in March, thousands of Russian troops left behind ammunition and equipment as they fled the town of Izium, which they had used as a logistics hub.

Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said the armed forces had regained control of more than 3,000 km2 (1,158 sq mi) since the start of this month.

Moscow’s near total silence on the defeat – or any explanation for what happened in northeastern Ukraine – has sparked significant anger among some pro-war commentators and Russian nationalists on social media. Some called on President Vladimir Putin on Sunday to make immediate changes to ensure eventual victory in the war. Read more

‘CYNICAL REVENGE’

Zelenskiy said on Sunday evening that the Russian attacks caused a blackout in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, and partial blackouts in the Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy regions.

“They are unable to come to terms with defeats on the battlefield,” Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the president’s office, posted an image on Telegram of burning power infrastructure, but power has been restored in some areas.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov called Sunday’s attacks a “cynical revenge” for the success of Ukrainian troops at the front, particularly in Kharkiv.

Ukraine’s gains are politically important for Zelenskiy as he seeks to keep Europe united behind Ukraine – by supplying arms and cash – even as an energy crisis looms this winter in the winter. following cuts in the supply of Russian gas to European customers.

Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces would continue to advance.

“We will not stand still,” he said in a CNN interview recorded Friday in Kyiv. “We are going to move slowly, gradually.”

“SNOWBALL FOLLOWING A HILL”

Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine must secure the recaptured territory against a possible Russian counterattack on stretched Ukrainian supply lines. He told the Financial Times that Ukrainian forces could be surrounded by fresh Russian troops if they advanced too far.

But he said the offensive went much better than expected, describing it as a “snowball rolling down a hill”.

“It’s a sign that Russia can be defeated,” he said.

Kyiv-based military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said the gains could bring another push to the Luhansk region, which Russia claimed to have captured in early July.

“If you look at the map, it is logical to assume that the offensive will develop in the direction of Svatove – Starobelsk and Sievierodonetsk – Lysychansk,” he said.

The head of the Russian administration in Kharkiv has told residents to evacuate the province and flee to Russia, TASS reported on Saturday. Witnesses described traffic jams with people leaving Russian-held territory.

Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of the Luhansk People’s Republic, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying Ukrainian forces were trying to enter the area, which has been held by Russian forces since July.

“Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups have not stopped their attempts to infiltrate the territory of the republic with the aim of provocation and intimidation of our citizens,” he said, adding that he had been “no withdrawal from positions held by the republic”.

Washington appeared to take a cautious public stance, with the Pentagon referring Reuters to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s remarks on Thursday about Kyiv’s “encouraging” successes on the battlefield. Read more

The British Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that fighting continued around Izium and the town of Kupyansk, the only rail hub supplying the Russian front line in northeastern Ukraine, which was taken over by Ukrainian forces.

THE NUCLEAR REACTOR SHUTDOWN

As the war entered its 200th day, Ukraine shut down the last working reactor of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant on Sunday to guard against disaster as fighting rages nearby.

Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of bombing around the Russian factory in Zaporizhzhia, risking the release of radiation.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said a backup power line to the plant had been restored, providing the external electricity it needed to carry out the shutdown while protecting against the risk of collapse.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Putin in a phone call on Sunday that the occupation of the factory by Russian troops was the reason its security was compromised, the French presidency said. Putin blamed Ukrainian forces, according to a Kremlin statement.

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Reporting by Reuters journalists; Written by Phil Stewart and James Oliphant; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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