Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of engaging in “energy terrorism” after Russian strikes on Ukraine’s energy network left millions of residents without power.
About 4.5 million people were without electricity across the country, Mr. Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Thursday. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said 450,000 apartments in the capital alone did not have on Friday.
“I appeal to all residents of the capital: save electricity as much as possible, because the situation remains difficult!” the mayor wrote on Telegram. State-owned grid operator Ukrenergo reported on Friday that emergency blackouts would be taking place across Kyiv.
Russia has carried out missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian power facilities, particularly in recent weeks. In his address, Mr. Zelenskyy described the targeting of energy infrastructure as a sign of weakness.
“The very fact that Russia is resorting to energy terrorism shows the weakness of our enemy," he said. “They cannot beat Ukraine on the battlefield, so they try to break our people this way.”
Mr. Zelenskyy spoke soon after Moscow-appointed authorities in southern Ukraine's occupied Kherson region said Russian troops were likely to leave the city of Kherson — a claim that Ukrainian officials greeted with some skepticism.
The Kremlin-installed regional administration already has moved tens of thousands of civilians out of the city, citing the threat of increased shelling as Ukraine's army pursues a counteroffensive to reclaim the region. Authorities removed the Russian flag from the Kherson administration building on Thursday, a week after the regional government moved out.
Ukraine’s southern military spokeswoman, Natalia Humeniuk, said the flag’s removal could be a ruse “and we should not hurry to rejoice.” She told Ukrainian television that some Russian military personnel are disguising themselves as civilians.
Neither side’s claims could be independently verified.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian officials reported shooting down drones launched by Russian forces. Dnipropetrovsk Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said eight drones were shot down in the Nikopol area, which was also subjected to artillery shelling. Another drone was shot down over the western Lviv region, Gov. Maksym Kozytskyy said.
Local Ukrainian officials said Russian forces shelled the regions of Mykolaiv in the south and Kharkiv in the northeast overnight, although no casualties were reported.
The commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhny, said Thursday night that Russian forces had “tripled the intensity of hostilities on certain areas of the front” and were carrying out “up to 80 attacks every day.”