Russia hits Ukraine grid in latest fatal barrage
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Ukraine was targeted on Monday by a new wave of fatal Russian missiles, the latest attack to disrupt power across the country and pile pressure on its embattled critical infrastructure as temperatures plunge.
The attacks came just after Moscow shrugged off a Western-imposed price cap on its oil exports, warning that the move would not disrupt its military campaign in Ukraine. Russian state-run media at the same time released footage of President Vladimir Putin driving a Mercedes car across the Crimea bridge that connects the annexed peninsula to the Russian mainland and was damaged in a blast last month.
The head of the central Zaporizhzhia region, Oleksandr Starukh, said that Russian missiles had left two people dead. Officials in regions in the east and south announced disruptions to water, electrical and heating services."There are already strikes on energy infrastructure facilities and subsequently emergency power outages," the national electricity provider Ukrenergo said in a statement.
Officials in the eastern region of Sumy and the southern regions of Odesa and Mykolaiv said residents were being subjected to disruptions in water, power or heating supplies as a result of the strikes. Nearly half the country's energy system has been damaged after months of systemic strikes on power infrastructure. Ukrainians have frequently been left in the cold and dark for hours at a time when the outdoor temperature has dropped below zero.
"Charge power banks. Prepare reserves of water. And heads of enterprises of all forms of ownership: let people go home," said the head of Kryvyi Rig military administration, Oleksandr Vilkul. The $60-per-barrel price cap agreed by the European Union, G7 and Australia aims to restrict Russia's revenue while making sure Moscow keeps supplying the global market.
"Russia's economy has all the necessary potential to fully meet the needs and requirements of the special military operation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, using Moscow's term for the Ukraine offensive. "These measures will not affect this," he said.
Russia "will not recognise" the measures, which amounted to "a step towards destabilising the global energy markets" and would "change" oil prices, he added. The cap is the latest in a number of measures spearheaded by Western countries and introduced against Russia -- the world's second-largest crude oil exporter -- after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine over nine months ago.
The measure comes on top of an EU embargo on seaborne deliveries of Russian crude oil that came into force on Monday. The embargo will prevent maritime shipments of Russian crude to the European Union, which account for two-thirds of the bloc's oil imports from Russia, potentially depriving Moscow of billions of euros.
The oil price cap aims to ensure that when Russia sells its crude to non-EU countries, who are not bound by the embargo, it is not sold at a price higher than $60 a barrel. The market price of a barrel of Russian Urals crude is currently around $65 dollars, just slightly higher than the $60 cap agreed upon, suggesting the measure may have only a limited impact in the short term.
Kyiv, after initially welcoming the price ceiling, later said it would not do enough damage to Russia's economy. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky this weekend described the move as "weak". He added that Russia had already caused "huge losses" by "deliberately destabilising" the global energy market.
The G7 nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States -- along with Australia have already said they are prepared to adjust the price ceiling if necessary.
In recent months, gas prices have skyrocketed since Moscow halted deliveries to the EU in suspected retaliation for Western sanctions and the bloc struggled to find alternative energy suppliers.
In the Ukrainian town of Borodianka outside the capital, Kyiv, where snow has already coated the ground, locals recently gathered around old wood-fired stoves inside tents to keep warm and cook food during the blackouts.
"We are totally dependent on electricity... One day we had no electricity for 16 hours," Irina, who had come to the tent with her child, told AFP. Volunteer Oleg said it was hard to say how Ukraine would manage in the coming winter months. "It is impossible to prepare for this winter because no one has lived in these conditions before," he said.