Kramatorsk, Ukraine, September 11 (UrduPoint/Pakistan Point News – September 12, 2022): Ukraine on Sunday accused Russia of causing sweeping power cuts in the east of the country, as Kyiv announced new gains in his counter-offensive, including the recapture of the key town of Izyum.
Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency had previously said the last reactor at Russia’s Zaporizhzhia power plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and a hotbed of the conflict, had been shut down as a safety measure.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile warned that Ukrainian attacks near the station could have “catastrophic consequences”.
Later Sunday, large areas of eastern Ukraine were plunged into blackouts, which Ukrainian officials blamed on Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Moscow of deliberately hitting civilian infrastructure.
“A total blackout in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, partial in the Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy regions,” Zelensky said in a statement on social media, blaming “Russian terrorists.”
“No military installations,” he added. “The goal is to deprive people of light and heat.” Some districts reported that power was later restored. The power cuts came as Ukrainian forces claimed to have taken over dozens of towns and villages in eastern Ukraine.
The power cuts affected regions with an estimated combined population of nine million people, including territory controlled by Russia.
The Russian attacks were also disrupting rail services, with the National Rail Service announcing delays across the east, including the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.
– ‘Weapons, weapons, weapons’ – Ukraine’s swift response to the Russian invasion apparently caught Moscow’s military off guard, bringing swathes of territory Moscow had controlled for months back into the bosom of Kyiv.
Footage released by the Ukrainian military showed crates of ammunition and military equipment strewn across territory abandoned by Russian forces.
In his Sunday evening speech, Zelensky praised the soldiers who had “liberated hundreds of our towns and villages…and more recently Balakliya, Izyum and Kupiansk”, citing three important centers recently captured by the army of Kyiv.
Around Balakliya, one of the first towns to be retaken by Ukrainian troops, AFP journalists saw fierce fighting, with buildings destroyed or damaged and streets largely deserted.
Sunday’s speech marked 200 days since the start of the Russian invasion.
Earlier on Sunday, Ukraine’s army chief announced that no less than 3,000 square kilometers (1,158 square miles) had been wrested from Russia since the offensive began earlier this month.
The country’s foreign minister used the momentum to appeal to Western allies for more stockpiles of sophisticated weapons.
“Weapons, weapons, weapons have been on our agenda since the spring. I am grateful to the partners who answered our call: Ukraine’s successes on the battlefield are our common successes,” said Dmytro Kuleba.
“Rapid supplies bring victory and peace closer,” reads his statement on social media.
– Russia ‘regrouping’ – Reaction in Moscow to Ukraine’s gains so far has been muted, but on Sunday a military map presented by the Russian Defense Ministry showed its forces had made a major withdrawal from the region of Kharkov.
Russia controlled only part of the territory to the east of the region, behind the Oskil River, according to the revised map.
The Russian military made the surprise announcement on Saturday that it was “regrouping” its forces from Kharkiv to the Donetsk region, just to the south, to concentrate its military efforts there. This happened shortly after Moscow said it was in fact sending reinforcements to Kharkiv.
Renewed fighting in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has heightened fears of another nuclear incident comparable to the Chernobyl disaster in northern Ukraine in 1986.
Putin, in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, again accused Ukraine of repeated attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant held by Russian troops.
The Russian leader drew attention to “regular Ukrainian attacks” which could have catastrophic consequences,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Each side repeatedly blamed the other for bombing the area.
Macron’s office, in its reading of the conversation, said the French president told Putin that “the Russian occupation was the reason for the risks” the factory faced.
Ukraine’s nuclear agency said on Sunday that the plant’s sixth and final reactor had been shut down.
Energoatom said the sixth reactor had been producing power for the plant itself for three days and the decision to halt operations was made when external power was restored to the facility.
However, he again warned that in his view the only way to keep the facility safe would be to create a demilitarized zone around it.
In Balakliya, one of the towns recently recaptured by Ukrainian troops, Iryna Stepanenko, 52, rode her bike for the first time in months.
She had been hiding in her basement for three months, she said, from the town which was home to some 27,000 people before the invasion.
But while she was relieved that Kyiv forces were back, she was still worried about the future.
“I’m afraid the Russians will come back. I’m afraid the shelling will start again.” another 19.