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Under missile strikes, Ukrainians carry water, while surgeons work in the dark


KYIV, Ukraine – In the crowded operating room, surgeons had made the long incision in the middle of the child’s chest, cut through the sternum to push aside the ribcage and reach the heart. Then the lights went out.

On Wednesday evening, generators kicked in to keep life support equipment running, and nurses and surgical assistants held flashlights above the operating table, guiding surgeons as they cut and cut, working to save the child’s life in near total darkness.

“So far, we are doing on our own,” said Borys Todurov, clinic director, Heart Institute, Kyiv. “But every hour gets harder. There has been no water for several hours. We continue to do only emergency operations.

In its increasingly destructive campaign to beat Ukrainian civilians by cutting off their electricity and running water, Russia hammered the Ukrainian people this week with a wave of missile strikes that was one of the most disruptive in weeks. . Ukrainian engineers and emergency crews worked desperately Thursday to restore services despite snow, freezing rain and power outages. And across the country, people faced deprivation.

As surgeons donned headlamps to work in the dark, miners were pulled from deep underground by hand winches. Residents of high-rise buildings dragged buckets and bottles of water up the stairs of buildings where elevators stopped working, and shops and restaurants turned on generators or lit candles to keep business going.

Although Ukrainians have expressed distrust of Russia’s efforts to weaken their resolve in the face of worsening cold weather, millions of people were left without power on Thursday night as persistent Russian missile strikes increased. more havoc. At least 10 people were killed on Wednesday, Ukrainian authorities said. After each missile launch, repairs became more difficult, breakdowns lasted longer, and the danger to the public increased.

“The situation is difficult throughout the country,” acknowledged Herman Galushchenko, Ukrainian Minister of Energy. By 4 a.m., he said, engineers had successfully “unified the energy system,” allowing power to be directed to critical infrastructure.

Wednesday’s barrage, which injured dozens of people, appears to be one of the most disruptive attacks in weeks. Since an explosion on October 8 on the bridge over the Kerch Strait, which connects the occupied Crimean peninsula to Russia, the Russian military has fired around 600 missiles at power stations, hydroelectric installations, water pumping stations and processing facilities, and high-voltage cables around nuclear power plants and critical substations that supply electricity to tens of millions of homes and businesses, according to Ukrainian officials.

Wednesday’s strikes knocked out all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants for the first time, depriving the country of one of its most vital sources of energy. But the energy minister said authorities expected the plants to be running again soon, “so the deficit will decrease”.

The Kremlin on Thursday denied that its attacks targeted civilians. A spokesman, Dmitry S. Peskov, said: “We are talking about infrastructure targets that have a direct or indirect relationship with Ukraine’s military potential,” according to Russian news agencies.

He added that the Ukrainian leadership “has every chance to bring the situation back to normal, has every chance to resolve the situation in a way that meets the demands of the Russian side and, therefore, every chance to put end to the suffering of the peaceful population.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has rejected any suggestion of a truce or peace talks at this stage, saying Moscow’s war aims have not changed and a pause in hostilities would only give the Russian army time to regroup after recent setbacks.

In mid-October, President Vladimir V. Putin declared the strikes on nearly a dozen Ukrainian towns in retaliation for the truck bomb attack on the Kerch Bridge, and the Russian military further additionally targeted civilian infrastructure since then.

But the rain of missile strikes also reflected Russia’s lingering struggles on the battlefield, as its ground forces retreated thousands of square miles into northeastern Ukraine in September and then a major southern city in November. Trying to solidify its lines on the ground – including with poorly trained and recently mobilized conscripts – the Russian military has resorted to long-range missile strikes as a means of deflecting domestic criticism and inflicting suffering while being on the defensive.

Ukraine has put its Western-supplied weapons into action against the strikes, while pleading for more help. General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said Ukrainian air defenses shot down 51 of 67 Russian cruise missiles fired on Wednesday and five of 10 drones.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking at an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday evening, denounced what he called a Russian terror campaign.

“When the temperature outside drops below zero and tens of millions of people are left without power, heat and water as a result of Russian missiles hitting energy facilities,” he said, “it’s a obvious crime against humanity”.

On Thursday, it was still unclear whether his new appeal would bring European Union diplomats closer to a final deal to help limit Russia’s oil revenues, an effort encouraged by the Biden administration to starve Russia of funds to the war.

Officials from the 27 EU member countries met late Wednesday evening without agreeing on a maximum price traders, shippers and other companies in the supply chain could pay for Russian oil. sold outside the block. The policy must be in place before an EU embargo on Russian oil imports takes effect on December 5.

The embargo only applies to the bloc of 27 nations. So, to further limit Russia’s financial gains, the group wants to cap the price that buyers outside the region pay for Russian oil. This crude could only be sold outside of Europe and should be below the agreed price. Russia has repeatedly said it will ignore the policy, which analysts say will be difficult to enforce.

EU ambassadors have been asked to set a price of $65 to $70 a barrel and be flexible on how the limit is enforced.

The benchmark for the price of Russian oil, known as the Urals Blend, has traded between $60 and $100 a barrel for the past three years. Over the past three months, the price has ranged from $65 to $75 a barrel, suggesting that EU policy would be of little immediate help in mitigating a global cost of living crisis.

As EU residents prepare for a winter characterized by high energy prices and possible rationing of supplies, Ukrainians are increasingly living with long power outages and water shortages due to to direct war damage.

In Kyiv on Thursday afternoon, around one in four homes still had no electricity and more than half of the city’s residents had no running water, according to city officials. Service has been gradually restored, city officials said, adding they were confident the pumps that provide water to some three million residents would be restored by the end of the day.

But the power cuts have created potentially dangerous conditions across the country. The hospital scene in Kyiv echoes that of medical facilities around Ukraine, a stark illustration of the cascading toll of Russia’s attacks on civilians far from the front lines.

Two kidney transplant operations were underway at the Cherkasy Regional Cancer Center in central Ukraine when the lights went out, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said on the app. Telegram messenger. The generators were turned on and the transplants were successful, he said.

Christopher Stokes, the head of Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine, said strikes on infrastructure put “millions of civilians at risk”. They can fuel a vicious loop, in which people living without heat or clean water are more likely to need medical care, but that care itself is more difficult to provide.

“Power cuts and water disruptions will also affect people’s access to healthcare as hospitals and health centers struggle to function,” he said.

Marc Santora reported from Kyiv, Ukraine, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Natalia Yermak from Dnipro, Ukraine. Report provided by Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels, Jim Tankerley and Alan Rappeport of Washington and Alan Yuhas from New York.

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