Putin ally warns Ukraine ‘we’ll send you back to 18th century’ as Kyiv fights power cuts

An ally of Vladimir Putin has warned Russia will “send Ukraine back to the 18th century” as Kyiv continues to fight power cuts. Moscow has been targeting Ukraine’s power infrastructure following a string of battlefield setbacks its forces suffered during the full-scale war it launched February 24, exactly nine months ago Thursday.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said about 70 percent of the Ukrainian capital was still without power on Thursday morning.

Western leaders denounced the bombing campaign. “Strikes against civilian infrastructures are war crimes,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov acknowledged Thursday that it targeted Ukrainian energy facilities. But he said they were linked to Ukraine’s military command and control system and that the aim was to disrupt flows of Ukrainian troops, weapons and ammunition to front lines. Authorities for Kyiv and the wider Kyiv region reported a total of 7 people killed and dozens of wounded.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We are conducting strikes against infrastructure in response to the unbridled flow of weapons to Ukraine and the reckless appeals of Kyiv to defeat Russia.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also sought to shift blame for civilian hardship on Ukraine’s government.

“Ukraine’s leadership has every opportunity to bring the situation back to normal, has every opportunity to resolve the situation in such a way as to meet the demands of the Russian side and, accordingly, end all possible suffering of the civilian population,” Peskov said.

But Vladimir Putin’s ally and deputy speaker of the Duma, Pyotr Tolstoy, admitted on Thursday that Russia’s efforts against Ukraine will “destroy” its infrastructure once and for all.

He told French broadcaster BFM: “The infrastructure of Ukraine will be destroyed, and Ukraine will be sent back to the 18th century.”

In a staunch threat to Western leaders, he said Ukraine’s allies “will pay the price”, adding that the West should ‘prepare itself for a war that will last years”.

Kyiv mayor said on Telegram that power engineers “are doing their best ” to restore electricity. Water repair teams were making progress, too. In the early afternoon, Klitschko announced that water supplies had been restored across the capital, with the caveat that “some consumers may still experience low water pressure.”

Power, heat and water were gradually coming back elsewhere, too. In Ukraine’s southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region, the governor announced that 3,000 miners trapped underground because of power blackouts had been rescued. Regional authorities posted messages on social media updating people on the progress of repairs but also saying they needed time.

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Mindful of the hardships — both now and ahead, as winter progresses — authorities are opening thousands of so-called “points of invincibility” — heated and powered spaces offering hot meals, electricity and internet connections. More than 3,700 were open across the country of Thursday morning, said a senior official in the presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

In Kherson, hospitals without power and water are also contending with the gruesome after-effects of intensifying Russian strikes. They hit residential and commercial buildings Thursday, setting some ablaze, blowing ash skyward and shattering glass across streets. Paramedics helped the injured.

Ukraine’s energy minister Herman Haluschenko said three out of four nuclear power stations that are fully functioning and which had been forced offline by Wednesday’s strikes were subsequently reconnected to the grid.

Governor of the Poltava region Dmytro Lunin said “an optimistic scenario” suggested that electricity will come back to residents of his central Ukrainian region on Thursday.

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“In the next few hours, we will start supplying energy to critical infrastructure, and then to the majority of household consumers,” Lunin said on Telegram, noting that power has already been restored for 15,500 people and 1,500 legal entities in the region.

Lunin added that water supplies resumed in several parts of the city of Poltava, and four boiler stations have started to heat regional hospitals.

Ukrainian authorities started opening what they call “points of invincibility” — heated and powered spaces where people could go for hot meals, electricity to recharge their devices and to connect to the internet.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said on Thursday morning that a total of 3,720 such spaces have been opened across the country.