Sun. Nov 20th, 2022

1. Power concerns as Russian attacks plunge millions into darkness

Russia’s constant attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure cut off supplies to as much as 40% of the country’s population at the start of winter.

Low temperatures create additional pressure on energy networks, said network operator Ukrenergo.

“You should always prepare for the worst. We understand that the enemy wants to destroy our power system in general, cause long outages,” Ukrenergo CEO Volodymyr Kudrytskyi told Ukrainian state television.

“We have to prepare for possible long outages, but we are currently implementing schedules that are planned and we will do our best to keep the outages from being very long.”

The capital, Kyiv, is already facing a “major electricity shortage,” Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko told The Associated Press. An estimated 1.5 to 2 million people — about half the city’s population — are periodically blacked out as authorities switch power from one neighborhood to another.

“This is a critical situation,” he said.

Klitschko added that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military planners apparently hope “to put us all into a depression,” make people feel insecure and “think about, ‘Maybe we’ll give up.’ But that won’t work, he said he said.

The situation with electricity in critical facilities such as hospitals and schools has stabilized in several areas, according to Ukrenergo.

These facilities were targeted during the night in the northeastern Kharkiv region, where energy equipment was damaged, according to the local governor. Eight people, including an energy crew and police, were injured trying to clear the rubble, he said.

Moscow’s attacks on Ukrainian energy and power facilities have fueled fears of what winter will bring. Ukraine’s energy infrastructure was targeted again on Thursday, two days after Russia fired more than 100 missiles and drones across the country, knocking out power to 10 million people.

See more about this story in the video above.

2. Spain to send generators to Ukraine to help ease electricity crisis

The Spanish government announced Saturday that it will send 14 new electric generators to Ukraine, where Russian attacks on energy infrastructure have left many Ukrainians without electricity and hot water to see them through the winter.

“(On Friday) we sent a new package of 14 generators to face the winter that has proven to be very harsh and difficult in Ukraine,” Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said.

Ukraine’s government has asked for “additional support” from the EU, estimating that almost half of its energy infrastructure has been put out of action by the massive Russian strikes that have been targeting them since early October, as the first snow fell on Thursday.

Madrid already announced on October 10, 19 that five electricity generators will be sent to Ukraine.

Spain will also send 30 additional ambulances as well as police reinforcements to help Ukrainian authorities investigate possible war crimes on its territory, Foreign Minister Albares said.

3. The Ukrainian army is winning the war, says the Canadian defense minister

Canada’s defense minister said the Ukrainian military is winning the war, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has only united NATO and renewed its purpose.

Defense Minister Anita Anand made the remarks at the annual International Security Forum in Halifax, which attracts defense and security officials from Western democracies.

“The spirit and determination of the Ukrainian people and President (Volodymyr) Zelensky continue to inspire us all. Ukrainian armed forces are motivated, disciplined and better trained – and they are winning,” said Anand.

Russia is facing increasing setbacks in almost nine months of fighting. Moscow recently withdrew troops from the key city of Kherson in southern Ukraine. But Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities have fueled fears of what winter will bring.

Anand said that Putin wrongly assumed that the Russian military would easily overpower the Ukrainians and that the West would sit idly by.

“Putin misjudged. Russia’s all-out and unprovoked invasion only strengthened NATO’s resolve and unity – and renewed its raison d’être,” she said.

4. Russia claims that Ukraine committed war crimes

Moscow has accused Ukrainian soldiers of executing more than 10 Russian prisoners of war, accusing Kyiv of committing war crimes and the West of ignoring them.

The Russian Defense Ministry cited a video circulating on Russian social media that it said showed the execution of Russian prisoners of war. Reuters could not immediately verify the video or the defense ministry’s claims.

“This brutal murder of Russian soldiers is neither the first nor the only war crime,” the ministry said.

“This is a common practice in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, actively supported by the regime in Kiev, and apparently ignored by its Western patrons.”

There was no immediate response from Kiev, which has previously said it would investigate any alleged abuses by its armed forces. Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of war crimes, which Moscow has denied.

The video shows what appear to be Russian soldiers lying on the ground in Makiivka, in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, after surrendering to armed men with yellow armbands.

Then there is automatic fire and the video shows about 12 bodies. It is not clear when the video was taken or who took it.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the video showed “the deliberate and methodical killing of more than 10 immobilized Russian soldiers by degenerate Ukrainian soldiers.”

In a statement to Reuters, Marta Hurtado, a spokeswoman for the UN human rights office, said: “We are aware of the videos and are investigating them. Allegations of summary executions hors de combat should be urgently, fully and effectively investigated, and all perpetrators should be brought to justice.”

Earlier this week, the UN said it had spoken to Ukrainian prisoners of war captured by the Russians who reported torture and ill-treatment. He said he also documented cases of abuse of Russian prisoners of war at Ukrainian facilities.

Matilda Bogner, head of the UN human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, said the abuse of Ukrainian prisoners by the Russians was “quite systematic” while it was “not systematic” for Ukraine to abuse Russian soldiers.

5. Funeral weekend for Polish men killed in a rocket attack

Two men killed by a missile that hit a village in southeastern Poland will be buried this weekend, as residents struggle to come to terms with the incident that fueled fears the war in Ukraine could spill over the border.

Residents of Przewodow are shaken by the explosion that claimed the lives of two men and brought the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II to their doorstep.

“I knew (both deceased) very well,” said local priest Bogdan Wazny. “One lived near here in this old settlement, and the other lived in the neighboring village, which is 3.5 kilometers from the church… They were very kind people.”

The first send-off was on Saturday at noon local time, and the second will take place on Sunday.

Przewodow, a village of 440 people, has been the subject of global media attention since two farm workers were killed in a grain drying facility by what Warsaw and Western allies say was a stray Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile.

Wazny said he and his parishioners will have time to reflect on their loss when the media frenzy dies down.

“When the reporters leave, when there are no cameras, we will surely talk here among ourselves and pray quietly.”

6. Moscow criticizes the Polish ban on issuing visas to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Russia has condemned as “provocative” Warsaw’s decision to refuse to issue a visa to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who wanted to attend a meeting of OSCE foreign ministers.

“Poland’s decision (…) is provocative and unprecedented,” the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.

“Not only has Warsaw discredited itself in this way, but it has caused irreparable damage to the authority of the entire Organization” for security and cooperation in Europe, the statement said.

Poland, which is hosting an OSCE ministerial meeting in early December, announced on Friday that it had denied Mr. Lavrov entry to its territory.

“We expect the Russian Federation to select members of its delegation in accordance with current regulations,” a source in the rotating annual presidency, currently held by Warsaw, told AFP.

According to her, the Russian delegation should not “include persons sanctioned by the European Union (EU)” after the Russian offensive in Ukraine launched on February 24, including Sergei Lavrov.

A meeting of the 57 foreign ministers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will take place on December 1 and 2 in Lodz, a city in central Poland.

The Russian delegation there will be headed by the Russian ambassador to the OSCE, Alexander Lukashevich, Moscow announced.

The Vienna-based OSCE was founded in 1975 at the height of the Cold War to promote East-West dialogue.