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Putin Has A New Plan To Crush Ukraine: Kill the Power Grid

Su-35S fighter. Image Credit: Russian State Media.
Su-35S fighter. Image Credit: Russian State Media.

Putin seems determined to leave Ukraine in the dark. And yet, Kyiv seems ready to press on and keep fighting back.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian attacks had left 4.5 million people across his country without power — a strategy that he mocked as a sign Russia can’t win the war on the battlefield.

Zelenskyy said on Thursday night that damage from Russian attacks had left 4.5 million people temporarily disconnected from power supplies.

He added that there was damage to the system across the country, including in the capital Kyiv.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Friday morning that 450,000 homes in the city had no power.

Zelenskyy painted the power losses as a consequence of Russian military weakness, mirroring the assessment Ukraine and Western leaders gave when Russia started firing missiles across the country last month.

Zelenskyy said on Thursday night that “the very fact that Russia resorted to terror against the energy industry shows the weakness of the enemy.”

“They cannot defeat Ukraine on the battlefield, and that is why they are trying to break our people in this way – to humiliate Ukrainians, to strike at the morale of our people, at the resistance of our people. I believe that Russia will not succeed.”

He described Russia’s tactics as “energy terror.”

Russia has been hitting Ukraine’s power and water infrastructure since the start of its invasion in February.

But it intensified that strategy in recent weeks after Ukraine’s counteroffensives saw it rapidly lose territory in the east.

Russia has used drones and missiles to hit key infrastructure across Ukraine, including areas of Ukraine’s west that have not seen any fighting.

Ukraine has, in many cases, quickly restored power. But the strikes are still impacting Ukrainians, killing some civilians and leaving others queueing for water and retreating to bomb shelters.

The country’s leaders, including Zelenskyy and Klitschko, have repeatedly urged Ukrainians to preserve power, with Klitschko acknowledging that Ukrainians are in a “difficult” situation.

Klitschko said on Wednesday that his city was preparing for the worst-case scenario of having “no electric power, water, or district heating at all,” and that it was setting up more than 1,000 heating points across the city in case they are needed.

The mayor of the western city of Lviv described Russia’s tactics as using the cold as a weapon against Ukrainians as the harsh winter months draw closer.

Zelenskyy on Thursday asked local authorities to make sure there was “no unnecessary use of electricity” across the country, adding: “Now is definitely not the time for bright showcases, signs, advertisements and other such lighting.”

He gave his nightly video address in the darkness last week, saying: “We are not afraid of the dark. The darkest times for us are not without light, but without freedom.”

Sinéad Baker is a Senior News Reporter based in Business Insider’s London bureau (where this first appeared), focusing on breaking news. Sinéad most often covers global and US politics. She has closely covered the 2020 presidential race and crises in international diplomacy. She has appeared on BBC News and The Guardian’s politics podcast to talk about developments around the world, and has been cited by Congressional hearings. Sinéad previously completed a master’s degree in investigative journalism at City, University of London, and has written for The Guardian, The Observer, and Sinéad is the former editor of the multi-award-winning The University Times in Dublin.

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Sinéad Baker is a News Reporter based in Business Insider's London bureau.