Russian missiles and shells hit Ukrainian positions in several regions and there was no let up in heavy fighting in Donetsk in the east, the Ukrainian military said as Moscow’s occupying forces appeared more active.
As the winter’s first snow fell in Kyiv, authorities said they were working to restore power nationwide after Russia earlier this week unleashed what Ukraine said was the heaviest bombardment of civilian infrastructure of the war, which began in late February when Russia invaded its neighbour.
Ukraine’s energy infrastructure was under persistent attack by Russian missiles and drones from the capital Kyiv in the north to Dnipro in central Ukraine and Odesa in the south, the military said in a statement.
Ukrainian forces in the past 24 hours had downed two cruise missiles, five air-launched missiles and five Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones, it said. Reuters was unable to verify battlefield reports.
About 10 million people were without power, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a Thursday evening video address. Authorities in some places ordered forced emergency blackouts, he said.
A U.N. agency said a serious humanitarian crisis loomed, with millions facing “constant power cuts” as Ukraine’s typically long, cold winter begins.
Pope Francis reiterated on Friday the Vatican was ready to do anything possible to mediate and put an end to the conflict.
“We must all be pacifists,” he told Italian daily La Stampa. “Wanting peace, not just a truce that may only serve to rearm. Real peace, which is the fruit of dialogue.”
Meanwhile, a Dutch court convicted two Russian men and a Ukrainian man in absentia of murder for their role in the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014. Russian-backed forces and the Ukraine military have been fighting in eastern provinces since 2014, the same year Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
“Punishment for all Russian atrocities - both present and past - will be unavoidable,” Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter in response to the court’s decision.
Moscow called the ruling “scandalous”.
In Donetsk region, Russian forces have been reinforced by troops pulled from Kherson city in the south which Ukraine recaptured last week. Russian forces fired artillery on the towns of Bakhmut and nearby Soledar, among others, the Ukrainian military said.
Russian fire also hit Balakliya in northeastern Kharkiv region, which Ukraine recaptured in September, and Nikopol, a city on the opposite bank of the Kakhovka reservoir from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, the statement said.
Grains Deal Extended
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said seven people in Zaporizhzhia were killed, while Ukrainian forces had driven back Russian attacks on the town of Huliapole, to the east of the city of Zaporizhzhia.
Reuters was not able to verify the reports.
The board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), again called on Russia to end all actions at Ukrainian nuclear power plants and immediately withdraw from Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
A deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July aimed at easing global food shortages by helping Ukraine export its agricultural products from Black Sea ports, was extended for four months on Thursday, although Russia said its own demands were yet to be fully addressed.
Since 1 August, more than 450 ships had carried 11 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain and other foodstuffs around the world, Ukraine’s Zelenskiy said.
Aid, Rock Music
The retreat by Russian forces from the strategic southern city of Kherson last week following a Ukrainian counter-offensive was celebrated by its people, but also created uncertainty.
The central square on Thursday was a frenetic melee of humanitarian aid queues and displays of patriotism.
At one end, a man played the Ukrainian anthem on the accordion as bystanders sang along; a man strummed out popular Ukrainian rock songs on the other. Children and teenagers asked a soldier to sign flags draped around their shoulders.
People queued to swap Russian SIM cards in their mobile phones for Ukrainian ones and hundreds waited for humanitarian aid, but said they had no idea what they might receive.
“We’re fine, but we don’t know what to expect. Nothing is over yet. On that bank of the river, the forces are gathering. On this side, they are gathering. We are in the middle,” said Ihor, 48, an unemployed builder.
Ukrainian and Russian gunners on Thursday traded shellfire across the Dnipro River that bisects the Kherson region, the thumps echoing as a freezing rain drenched the city.
Investigators in recaptured territory in the area uncovered 63 bodies bearing signs of torture after Russian forces left, Ukraine’s interior minister was quoted as saying.
Russia denies its troops target civilians or have committed atrocities. Mass burial sites have been found in other parts previously occupied by Russian troops, including some with civilian bodies showing signs of torture.