KYIV, Ukraine — From towns near frontline battlefields to high-rises in the capital, Ukrainians were trying to conserve energy as President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Tuesday that Russian attacks over the past eight days had destroyed 30 percent of Ukraine’s power stations and caused “massive blackouts across the country.”
The latest strikes have increased the likelihood of a miserable winter, with residents having to do without basic services such as heat and water. The World Health Organization has warned of the potential for a spiraling humanitarian crisis, given that a lack of access to fuel or electricity “could become a matter of life or death if people are unable to heat their homes.”
The United Nations’ human rights body has said that deliberate strikes on such civilian targets could constitute a war crime. Mr. Zelensky urged Ukrainians in his nightly address on Monday to reduce their electricity use during peak hours to “enable the whole country to go through this period more stably,” and many residents and businesses have been doing their part.
In his statement on Tuesday, he did not specify which power stations had sustained significant damage. On Tuesday, blasts hit a district on the eastern shore of the Dnipro River in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, according to the mayor, along with cities in the north and center of the country.
The strikes on Ukraine in recent weeks have targeted both electrical infrastructure and thermal power plants. Many cities and towns rely on a centralized system to heat homes, pumping water from these thermal plants though pipes that reach houses and large apartment complexes across the region.
If the plants are damaged — or the pipes — it could threaten heating across a wide area. Those who rely on electric heaters also risk facing a winter without proper warmth in their houses because of rolling blackouts.
The attack on Kyiv killed three people and knocked out electricity and water in parts of the city, officials said, and came one day after Russia struck the city with exploding Iranian-made drones, apparently targeting electricity and heating facilities.
In Kyiv, lights flickered just after 9 a.m., and residents living in the city’s eastern reaches said they had heard an explosion. The mayor, Vitaly Klitschko, said that an “object of critical infrastructure” had been struck. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official in Mr. Zelensky’s office, said that at least three strikes had hit an energy site, resulting in “serious damage,” without elaborating.
By midmorning, people in Kyiv were lining up at stores to fill bottles with fresh water, and electricity suppliers warned that the city would experience blackouts while repairs were underway.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said that it had launched long-range strikes on Tuesday targeting “the military control and energy systems of Ukraine” and depots storing foreign-supplied military weapons and equipment, and that “all the assigned targets had been neutralized.” It was not possible to verify the claim.
Even as Russia’s forces lose ground on the battlefield to Ukrainian counteroffensives in the east and south, Moscow has stepped up its aerial bombardment of Ukrainian cities, including many, like Kyiv, that lie far from the front lines.
On social media, shops, banks and other major retailers have posted photos of the measures that they are taking to reduce energy use, such as turning off illuminated signs. In the capital, some billboards are no longer lit up at night, and streetlights are being partly turned off. Still, towns and cities across Ukraine are dealing with rolling blackouts or going without power entirely.
In Washington, Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said on Tuesday that, with its latest airstrikes on Ukraine’s electrical grid, the Kremlin was “obviously trying to inflict pain on the civilian society as well as try to have an impact on Ukrainian forces.”
“But what we’ve seen so far is Ukraine be very resilient and their ability to get things like their power grids back up online quickly,” General Ryder told reporters.
[Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/10/18/world/russia-ukraine-war-news]