Ukraine was targeted on Monday by a new wave of fatal Russian missiles, the latest attack to cause massive power disruptions across the country and pile pressure on its embattled critical infrastructure as temperatures plunge.
Moscow in turn blamed Ukraine for drone attacks which caused explosions at two of its airfields, killing three soldiers.
The attacks came just after Russia shrugged off a Western-imposed price cap on its oil exports, warning the move would not disrupt its military campaign in Ukraine.
While the drone attacks on Russia’s Saratov and Ryazan regions were intercepted, the defence ministry said falling debris had caused the explosions.
At the same time, it claimed a “massive attack on Ukrainian military command systems and related defence, communications, energy and military facilities".
Fresh power cuts were announced in all regions of Ukraine due to the heavy strikes.
“Due to the consequences of shelling… a regime of emergency shutdowns will be introduced in all regions of Ukraine," national electricity provider Ukrenergo said on Telegram.
The head of the central Zaporizhzhia region, Oleksandr Starukh, said Russian missiles on Monday had left two people dead.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country’s military had shot down a majority of Russian missiles fired earlier in the day, and engineers had already begun working to restore electricity.
“Our people never give up," Zelensky said in a video-statement on social media.
Nearly half of Ukraine’s energy system has already been damaged after months of systemic strikes on power infrastructure.
Ukrainians have frequently been left in the cold and dark for hours at a time when the outdoor temperature has dropped below zero.
Officials told residents to charge power banks and prepare reserves of water.
The UN rights chief Volker Turk, who arrived Sunday in Ukraine on a four-day visit, had to move his meetings with activists into an underground shelter in the capital Kyiv as missiles rained down.
Moscow vows to keep fighting
As Russia shrugged off the oil price cap, state-run media released footage of President Vladimir Putin driving a Mercedes car across the Crimea bridge that connects the annexed peninsula to the Russian mainland, and was damaged in a blast last month.
The $60-per-barrel price cap agreed by the European Union, G7 and Australia aims to restrict Russia’s revenue while making sure Moscow keeps supplying the global market.
“Russia’s economy has all the necessary potential to fully meet the needs and requirements of the special military operation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, using Moscow’s term for the Ukraine offensive.
“These measures will not affect this," he said.
Russia “will not recognise" the measures, which amounted to “a step towards destabilising the global energy markets", he added.
The cap is the latest in a number of measures spearheaded by Western countries and introduced against Russia — the world’s second-largest crude oil exporter — after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine over nine months ago.
The measure comes on top of an EU embargo on seaborne deliveries of Russian crude oil that came into force on Monday.
The embargo will prevent maritime shipments of Russian crude to the European Union, which account for two thirds of the bloc’s oil imports from Russia, potentially depriving Moscow of billions of euros.
The oil price cap aims to ensure that when Russia sells its crude to non-EU countries it is not sold for more than $60 a barrel.
The market price of a barrel of Russian Urals crude is currently around $65 dollars, just slightly higher than the cap, suggesting the measure may have only a limited impact in the short term.
Kyiv, after initially welcoming the price ceiling, later said it would not do enough damage to Russia’s economy.
‘Impossible to prepare’
The G7 nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — along with Australia have said they are prepared to adjust the price ceiling if necessary.
In recent months, gas prices have skyrocketed since Moscow halted deliveries to the EU in suspected retaliation for Western sanctions and the bloc struggled to find alternative energy suppliers.
In the Ukrainian town of Borodianka, outside Kyiv, where snow has already coated the ground, locals recently gathered around old wood-fired stoves inside tents to keep warm and cook food during the blackouts.
“We are totally dependent on electricity… One day we had no electricity for 16 hours," Irina, who had come to the tent with her child, told AFP.
Volunteer Oleg said it was hard to say how Ukraine would manage in the coming winter months.
“It is impossible to prepare for this winter because no-one has lived in these conditions before," he said.
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