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Ukraine’s government promised to create shelters to provide heat and water and encouraged citizens to save energy as a harsh winter loomed amid relentless Russian strikes that left its power structure tattered.

Special “invincibility centers” will be set up around Ukraine to provide electricity, heating, water, internet, mobile phone connections and a pharmacy, free of charge and 24 hours a day, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Tuesday.

The Russian attacks knocked out power for long periods for up to 10 million consumers at once. Ukraine’s national electricity grid operator said on Tuesday the damage had been colossal.

“If massive Russian strikes happen again and it’s clear that power won’t be restored for hours, ‘invincibility centers’ will spring into action with all key services,” Zelenskyy said.

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Ukraine braces for a cold winter as Russian strikes cripple its power capacity

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Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said this week that some 8,500 generator sets are being imported into Ukraine daily.

The first snowfall of winter has fallen across much of the country over the past week.

Authorities have warned of power cuts that could affect millions of people until the end of March – the latest impact of the nine-month Russian invasion that has already killed tens of thousands of people, uprooted millions and hit the global economy.

Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities follow a series of battlefield setbacks that have included the withdrawal of its forces from the southern city of Kherson to the east bank of the Dnipro River that runs through the country.

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A week after being recaptured by Ukrainian forces, residents of Kherson were tearing down Russian propaganda billboards and replacing them with pro-Ukrainian billboards.

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“The moment our soldiers entered, these posters were printed and handed over to us. We found workers to install the posters and we cleaned up the advertisement as quickly as possible,” said Antonina Dobrozhenska, who works in the government’s communications department.

Russian missiles hit a maternity ward in the Zaporizhzhia region, killing a baby, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said on the Telegram messaging service.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the report. Russia denies targeting civilians.

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Battles raged in the east, where Russia is launching an offensive along a stretch of the front line west of the city of Donetsk, which has been held by its proxies since 2014. The Donetsk region has been the scene of fierce attacks and constant shelling in the past. 24 hours, Zelenskiy said.

In Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, Russian air defenses were activated and two drone attacks were repelled on Tuesday, including one targeting a power plant near Sevastopol, said the regional governor. Sevastopol is the home port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Russian Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev called for calm and said no damage had been done.

“Stock up on warm clothes”

The World Health Organization warned this week that hundreds of Ukrainian hospitals and health facilities are running out of fuel, water and electricity.

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“The Ukrainian healthcare system is going through the darkest days of the war so far. After suffering more than 700 attacks, it is now also a victim of the energy crisis,” Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said in a statement after his visit to Ukraine.

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Sergey Kovalenko, the head of YASNO, which supplies energy to Kyiv, advised citizens to “stock up on warm clothes, blankets… think about options that will help you get through a long blackout.”

Russian strikes on energy infrastructure are the consequence of Kyiv’s refusal to negotiate, Russian news agency TASS quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying last week.

Russia says it is carrying out a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities.

Both Ukraine and the West describe Russia’s actions as an unprovoked imperialist land grab in the neighboring state it once ruled in the former Soviet Union.

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Western responses have included financial and military aid for Kyiv – it received 2.5 billion euros ($2.57 billion) from the EU on Tuesday and expects $4.5 billion in US aid in the coming weeks – and waves of sanctions against Russia.

The West has also sought to cap the prices of Russian energy exports, in an effort to reduce the oil revenues that fund Moscow’s war machine while maintaining oil flows to world markets to avoid price spikes.

The Group of Seven countries are expected to announce the price cap soon and will likely adjust the level several times a year, a senior US Treasury official said on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Oleksandr Kozhukhar and Maria Starkova in Kyiv, Ronald Popeski in Winnipeg, Lidia Kelley in Sydney; Writing by Rosalba O’Brien and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Robert Birsel)

Ukraine promises ‘invincibility centers’ to protect residents from harsh winter – National

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