On Thursday, when the daytime temperature in the capital, Kyiv, hovered around freezing, the city’s mayor suggested that residents consider a temporary evacuation.
“I appeal to the people of Kyiv who can – who have relatives, acquaintances in the suburbs, in private houses where you can live temporarily – to consider such options,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at a security forum.
It was the latest sign that officials were growing increasingly worried as winter began to bite. They have appealed for help from the US and Europe and are preparing centres where civilians can find warmth, light and internet access.
In a speech this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attempted to rally the population. “We will pass this challenge of war, as well – this winter, this Russian attempt to use the cold against people,” he said.
British defence intelligence officials said the attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure appeared to be the first time Moscow had put into effect a military doctrine adopted recently known as the Strategic Operation for the Destruction of Critically Important Targets, or SODCIT.
“Russia envisioned SODCIT as using long-range missiles to strike an enemy state’s critical national infrastructure, rather than its military forces, to demoralise the population and, ultimately, force the state’s leaders to capitulate,” the British Defence Ministry said.
In this case, British officials said, the tactic could be less effective because it was employed only half-a-year into the war, when Russian missile stocks have been depleted and the Ukrainian population has been able to prepare.
Still, in Kherson, the battered city where the new infrastructure strikes took place, the attacks are a source of frustration.
Just weeks ago, Ukraine reclaimed Kherson, forcing Russian troops to withdraw to the east bank of the Dnieper River after a counteroffensive that lasted for months. Since then, Russian forces have fired hundreds of shells across the river at the city.
As in Kyiv, authorities have been encouraging residents to leave Kherson, given the lack of power and water in the city. On Wednesday, authorities said they had restored power to 20 per cent of customers, only for more strikes to reverse the situation.
Russian forces fired 34 shells that hit five settlements in the broader region on Thursday, killing one person and wounding two others, said Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the regional military administration.
Despite the efforts of Ukrainian engineers and the support of the European Union and the United States, which have started to deliver both transformers and heavy generators, it will take six months to restore the damaged infrastructure, according to Herus.
“During this winter, it is impossible to restore all the damaged facilities of the energy infrastructure,” he said on Ukraine’s Espresso television channel.
This week, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Yevhen Yenin said on Ukrainian television that a total of 520 cities, towns and villages were facing power supply problems because of the attacks.
On Thursday, Brigadier General Oleksii Hromov, a member of Ukraine’s General Staff, warned of a threat of new missile strikes on infrastructure. “The enemy’s goal is to cause panic in the population,” he said.
Soon after he spoke, air-raid alarms sounded across the country, although they were followed by an all-clear.
Lavrov dismissed as “laughable” suggestions that Moscow might be trying to engage Kyiv in cease-fire negotiations so that it can buy time and replenish its forces amid setbacks on the battlefield.
“We have never asked for any negotiations,” Lavrov said. “But we have always said that if someone is interested in finding a negotiated solution, we are ready to listen.”
US President Joe Biden said at a news conference at the White House after a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron that he would talk to President Vladimir Putin if the Russian leader expressed a desire to end his invasion of Ukraine.
Biden said he would do so, however, only in consultation with NATO allies.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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