Attacks on energy facilities aim to increase migration, Zelenskiy tells EU leaders

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told EU leaders on October 20 that the Russian attacks which have destroyed much of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure are partly aimed at causing a new wave of migration of Ukrainians to the EU countries.

“The Russian terror against our energy facilities is aimed at creating as many problems as possible with electricity and heating for Ukraine this fall and winter, and for as many Ukrainians as possible to come to your countries”, he said at a European summit in Brussels.

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This should “respond immediately”, mainly with more air defense systems sent to Ukraine, the president said.

“We must do everything possible to make it completely impossible for Russia to destroy our energy system with missiles and drones,” Zelenskiy said in a virtual address to European lawmakers, calling on Ukraine’s partners to provide systems “to create a truly reliable air shield”. “

Russia has stepped up its attacks on civilian installations and infrastructure in Ukraine since Oct. 10, mostly using suicide drones that Ukraine and its Western allies say are made by Iran. Moscow and Tehran have denied the charges.

Zelenskiy also warned that Ukraine suspects that Russia mined the dam and units of the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric power station on the Dnieper in southern Ukraine, and if it exploded, more than 80 settlements, including Kherson, would be in danger of flooding.

Zelenskiy said Ukrainian workers were kicked out of the factory, leaving control to the Russians. He claimed that Russia “has already prepared everything to carry out this terrorist attack”.

He called for an international observer mission and the return of Ukrainian personnel to ensure the mines are removed from the dam and its units.

Zelenskiy’s comment came two days after Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed leader of Ukraine’s Kherson region, announced an “organized and gradual movement” of civilians from four towns on the right bank of the Dnieper to the bank. left.

Saldo accused Ukrainian forces of planning the destruction of the dam and also warned of “an immediate danger of flooding”.

Moscow-based Kherson authorities said on October 20 that about 15,000 people had left the area.

The Moscow-appointed deputy head of the Kherson region, Kirill Stremousov, encouraged people to cross the left bank of the Dnieper and posted a video of a column of buses on Telegram.

Kyiv denounced Moscow’s decision, calling it a “deportation” of Ukrainian civilians to Russia.

But Stremousov said people should follow evacuation instructions and leave Kherson, one of four Ukrainian regions illegally annexed by Russia.

“Give the military a chance to do what they have to do,” he said, saying the Russian military will not surrender Kherson.

Zelenskiy’s office said Ukrainian forces on Oct. 20 launched 15 attacks on Russian military strongholds in the Kherson region. The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said Kremlin forces repelled Ukrainian attempts to advance with tanks on three villages in Kherson.

Another Russian-installed official in the region, Vladimir Leontyev, said Ukrainian forces launched five missile strikes against the Kakhovka Dam.

Earlier on October 20, Ukraine began restricting its electricity consumption for the first time since the start of the Russian invasion, as the country suffered severe damage to its infrastructure following waves of Russian airstrikes. targeting its power grid before the onset of winter.

Oleksandr Kharchenko, adviser to the energy minister, said on October 19 that there would be blackouts, some of which are planned.

“Unfortunately, according to new data, about 40% of the total infrastructure is severely damaged. Repair and connection works are underway, but breakdowns are expected,” Kharchenko told Ukrainian television.

In the latest Russian attack, an energy facility was hit and damaged in the Kryvorizka district of the Dnipropetrovsk region, the head of the regional administration, Valentyn Reznichenko, reported on October 20.

Earlier, a missile strike hit a major coal-fired power plant in the western Ukrainian city of Burshtyn, the region’s governor said.

“Our region came under missile fire today. The thermal power plant in Burshtyn was hit, which caused a fire,” Ivano-Frankivsk region governor Svitlana Onyshchuk said in a video statement. line.

Burshtyn power plant supplies electricity to three western regions and 5 million consumers.

Ahead of the summit, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addressed lawmakers in Berlin on October 20, condemning the latest Russian drone attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine and saying “such scorched earth tactics will not help the Russia to win the war”.

Scholz said such tactics by Russian President Vladimir Putin “would only strengthen the resolve and will of Ukraine and its partners to persevere.”

“Ultimately, Russia’s bombing and missile terror is an act of desperation, as is the mobilization of Russian men for war,” Scholz said. “He wants to sow fear, divide and intimidate. He speculates on our weakness, but he is wrong, we are not weak.”

Scholz said rebuilding Ukraine after the war would be a “generational task in which the whole civilized community of states must join forces.”

In London, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace will also make a statement in Parliament on Ukraine later on October 20, the House of Commons announced on Twitter.

With reporting from Reuters, AFP, dpa and BBC
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