Russia hits power plants after Ukrainian counteroffensive

Russia has attacked power plants and other infrastructure, causing widespread sorties across Ukraine, as Kiev’s forces launched a rapid counteroffensive that drove Moscow’s forces from much of the territory.

The bombardment ignited a massive fire at a power plant on the western outskirts of Kharkiv, killing at least one person.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the “deliberate and cynical rocket attacks” on civilian targets as acts of terrorism.

Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, appeared to be without power on Sunday evening. Cars drove through dark streets and the few pedestrians used flashlights or cell phones to light their way.

A man crosses a pitch-black street in Kharkiv (Leo Correa/AP) (AP)

Separately, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the Russian-occupied south was completely shut down to prevent a radiation disaster, as fighting raged nearby.

Kiev’s action in recent days to recapture Russian-held territories in the Kharkiv region forced Moscow to withdraw its troops to avoid being surrounded, leaving behind a significant number of arms and ammunition in a hasty rout as the war marked its 200th day on Sunday.

Ukraine’s military chief, General Valerii Zaluzhnyy, said his forces had retaken about 1,160 square miles since the counteroffensive began in early September.

He said Ukrainian troops are only 30 miles from the Russian border.

A battalion shared video of Ukrainian forces outside a municipal building in Hoptivka, a village just over a mile from the border and about 12 miles north of Kharkiv.

Kharkiv Governor Oleh Syniehubov said Ukrainian troops had regained control of more than 40 settlements in the region.

Kharkiv and Donetsk regions appeared to bear the brunt of Russia’s rocket attacks on Sunday evening. Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia and Sumy only partially lost power, Zelenskyy said.

Firefighters from Ukraine’s state rescue service put out a blaze after a Russian missile attack hit a power station in Kharkiv (Kostiantyn Liberov/AP) (AP)

Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov called the blackout “a revenge of the Russian aggressor for the successes of our army at the front, especially in the Kharkiv region.”

Ukrainian officials said Russia hit Kharkiv TEC-5, the country’s second-largest combined heat and power plant, and Mr Zelensky posted a video of the Kharkiv power plant burning.

“Russian terrorists remain terrorists and attack critical infrastructure. No military installations, just the goal of leaving people without light and heat,” he tweeted.

But Zelenskyj remained defiant despite the attacks. Addressing Russia, he added: “Do you still think you can intimidate us, break us, force us to make concessions? … Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst are not so frightening and deadly to us as your “friendship and brotherhood.” But history will make everything right. And we will be with gas, light, water and food… and WITHOUT you.”

Some power had been restored in some regions later in the evening. It was assumed that none of the failures was related to the shutdown of the reactors at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

While most attention has focused on the counteroffensive, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator said the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, has been reconnected to Ukraine’s power grid, allowing engineers to shut down its last operational reactor to shut it down amid fighting protection.

The power plant, one of the 10 largest nuclear power plants in the world, has been occupied by Russian forces since the beginning of the war. Ukraine and Russia have exchanged blame for the shelling.

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