Ukrainian authorities and utility crews battled sporadic Russian shellings in eastern and southern parts of the country overnight as they scrambled to restore power, water and heating, officials said Sunday.
With persistent snowfall blanketing the capital, Kyiv, Sunday, analysts predicted that wintry weather – bringing with it frozen terrain and grueling fighting conditions – could have an increasing impact on the direction of the conflict that has raged since Russian forces invaded Ukraine more than nine months ago.
But for the moment, both sides were bogged down by heavy rain and muddy battlefield conditions in some areas, experts said.
After a blistering barrage of Russian artillery strikes on at least two occasions over the past two weeks, infrastructure teams in Ukraine were fanning out in around-the-clock deployments to restore key basic services as many Ukrainians dealt with only a few hours of electricity per day – if any.
Ukrenergo, the state power grid operator, said Sunday that electricity producers are now supplying about 80% of demand. That’s an improvement from Saturday’s 75%, the company says.
The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank that has been closely monitoring developments in Ukraine, said reporting from both sides indicated that heavy rain and mud have had an impact – but wider freezing expected along the front lines in coming days could play a role.
“It is unclear if either side is actively planning or preparing to resume major offensive or counteroffensive operations at that time, but the meteorological factors that have been hindering such operations will begin lifting,” it said in a note published Saturday.
ISW said Russian forces were digging in further east of the city of Kherson, from which they were expelled by Ukrainian forces more than two weeks ago, and continued “routine artillery fire” across the Dnipro River.
In the eastern Donetsk region, five people were killed in shelling over the past day, according to governor Pavlo Kyrylenko. Overnight shelling was reported by regional leaders in the Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk areas to the west.
Kharkiv governor Oleh Syniehubov said one person was killed and three wounded in the northeastern region.
A day earlier, a long column of cars, vans and trucks caravanned away from the recently liberated city of Kherson after intense shelling in recent days and amid concerns, more pummeling from the Russian forces nearby could loom again in coming days.
‘Solidarity’ in helping refugees
Meanwhile, the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, has called for more continental solidarity in accommodating Ukrainian refugees.
“If more Ukrainians are forced to flee over the winter because of Russian bombardments and attacks, then Western Europe must take on more responsibility,” Weber told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
It was an “unprecedented challenge” that had to be met with “solidarity,” the German politician was cited as saying.
According to the U.N. refugee agency, some 7.9 million people from Ukraine have so far sought protection abroad because of the war since it began on Feb. 24.
Earlier Saturday, Ukraine’s parliament speaker said that he would ask his counterparts from around the world to recognize the Holodomor tragedy of 1932-1933 as a “genocide of Ukrainian people” by the Soviet Union.
Recognizing the Holodomor is “fundamentally important for the creation and development of the Ukrainian state,” Ruslan Stefanchuk, the speaker of the unicameral Verkhovna Rada told Ukrainian ambassadors at an annual conference, adding that he would make the request in January.
“I think that the entire Ukrainian people will be sincerely grateful if our ambassadors in all countries contribute to the adoption of appropriate decisions by governments and parliaments of the world,” Stefanchuk added.
The Holodomor is considered one of the most painful events in the history of Ukraine. At least 3.9 million people starved to death between 1932 and 1933 as a result of Stalin’s policies and the “collectivization” of agriculture, according to the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory.
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