Ukrainian authorities have begun evacuating civilians from recently liberated sections of the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions – fearing a lack of heat, power and water due to Russian shelling will make living conditions too difficult this winter.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) concurred – saying millions face a “life-threatening” winter in Ukraine.
Authorities urged residents of the two southern regions, which Russian forces have been shelling for months, to move to safer areas in the central and and western parts of the country.
Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Monday the government will provide transport, accommodation and medical care for them, with priority for women with children, the sick and elderly.
To conserve power, Ms Vereshchuk last month asked citizens now living abroad not to return to Ukraine for the winter.
Other officials have suggested residents in Kyiv or elsewhere who have the resources to leave Ukraine for a few months should do so to save power for hospitals and other key facilities.
The WHO delivered a chilling warning on Monday about the energy crisis’s human impact on Ukraine.
“This winter will be life-threatening for millions of people in Ukraine,” said regional director for Europe, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge.
“Attacks on health and energy infrastructure mean hundreds of hospitals and healthcare facilities are no longer fully operational, lacking fuel, water and electricity.”
The illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is continuing.
The map below is the latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 21 November 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/AuaK9ekFoC
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/x2ypYUVhDG
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) November 21, 2022
He warned of health risks such as respiratory and cardiovascular problems from people trying to warm themselves by burning charcoal or wood and using diesel generators and electric heaters.
The evacuations are taking place over a week after Ukraine recaptured the city of Kherson, on the western bank of the Dnieper River, and surrounding areas in a major battlefield gain.
Since then, heading into the winter, residents and authorities alike are realising how much power and other infrastructure the Russians damaged or destroyed before retreating.
Ukraine is known for its brutal winter weather and snow has already covered Kyiv, the capital, and other parts of the country.
Russian forces are fortifying their defence lines along Dnieper River’s eastern bank, fearing Ukrainian forces will push deeper into the region.
In the weeks before Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive, Russian-installed authorities relocated tens of thousands of Kherson city residents to Russian-held areas.
On Monday, Russian-installed authorities urged other residents to evacuate an area on the river’s eastern bank which Moscow now controls, citing intense fighting in Kherson’s Kakhovskiy district.
Russia has been pounding Ukraine’s power grid and other infrastructure from the air for weeks, causing widespread blackouts and leaving millions of Ukrainians without electricity, heat and water.
To cope, four-hour or longer power outages were scheduled on Monday in 15 of Ukraine’s 27 regions, according to Volodymyr Kudrytsky, head of Ukraine’s state grid operator Ukrenergo.
Ukrenergo plans more outages on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russian missile strikes have damaged more than 50% of the country’s energy facilities.
Mr Zelensky on Monday repeated his calls for Nato nations and other allies to recognise Russia as a terrorist state, saying its shelling of energy facilities was tantamount “to the use of a weapon of mass destruction”.
Mr Zelensky also again urged stricter sanctions against Russia and appealed for more air defence aid.
“The terrorist state needs to see that they do not stand a chance,” he told Nato’s 68th Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Madrid in a video address, after which he said the body approved the terrorist designation.
Also Monday, Mr Zelensky and his wife made a rare joint public appearance to observe a moment of silence and place candles at a Kyiv memorial for those killed in Ukraine’s pro-European Union mass protests in 2014.
Had a call with @EmmanuelMacron. Informed about the situation on the battlefield and at 🇺🇦 nuclear plants. Stressed the need of demilitarization of #ZNPP. We also discussed cooperation on ensuring Ukraine's energy stability, in particular, protecting the system from air attacks.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) November 21, 2022
As bells rang in a memorial tribute, Ukraine’s first couple walked under a grey sky on streets dusted with snow and ice up to a wall of stone plaques bearing the names of fallen protesters.
Their visit coincided with fresh reminders on Monday of more death and destruction on Ukrainian soil.
At least four civilians were killed and eight more wounded in Ukraine over the past 24 hours, the deputy head of the country’s presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said on Monday.
A Russian missile strike in the north-east Kharkiv region on Sunday night killed one person and wounded two as it hit a residential building in the village of Shevchenkove, according to the region’s governor.
One person was hurt in the Dnipropetrovsk region, where Russian forces shelled the city of Nikopol and surrounding areas, governor Valentyn Reznichenko said.
Nikopol lies across the river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station.
In the eastern Donetsk region, which Moscow partially controls, Russian forces shelled 14 towns and villages, the region’s Ukrainian governor said.
Heavy fighting was taking place near the Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut, where a school was damaged.
Serhii Soloshak who died at Donbas defending Ukraine was laid to rest in Zhytomyr.
Serhii was a restorer of musical instruments before the war and didn't have any previous military experience.
Eternal glory to Hero. pic.twitter.com/c92bF9YicT
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) November 21, 2022
In Makiivka, which is under Russian control, an oil depot was hit and caught fire.
Russian-installed authorities said more than 105,000 people in the province’s capital, Donetsk, were left without electricity on Monday after Ukrainian shelling damaged power lines.
One person was killed, officials said, and 59 miners were trapped underground after power was cut to four coal mines.
In the neighbouring Luhansk region, most of which is under Russian control, the Ukrainian army is advancing towards the key cities of Kreminna and Svatove, where the Russians have set up a defence line, according to Luhansk’s Ukrainian governor Serhiy Haidai.
“There are successes and the Ukrainian army is moving very slowly, but it will be much more difficult for Russians to defend themselves after Svatove and Kreminna (are retaken),” Mr Haidai told Ukrainian television.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence said retaining control of Svatove should be a political priority for Russia but “both Russian defensive and offensive capability continues to be hampered by severe shortages of munitions and skilled personnel”.
In another development, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said its inspectors on Monday reported that weekend shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, had not damaged key equipment and they had identified no nuclear safety concerns.
The six reactors, which are all shut down, are stable, and the integrity of spent and fresh fuel, along with stored radioactive waste, was confirmed, the IAEA said, adding that staff are repairing damage to other equipment.
As they have for months, Kyiv and Moscow blamed each other for the shelling of the Russian-occupied power station, and again the IAEA did not comment on who was responsible.