Russia-Ukraine War Briefing

Winter Cold Becomes a Weapon in Ukraine

A barrage of Russian missiles causes power outages as temperatures drop.

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ImageA building hit by a Russian missile today in Vyshhorod, near Kyiv.
Credit...Vladyslav Musiienko/Reuters

One of the heaviest barrages of Russian airstrikes in weeks left Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine without power, water and other basic services today. Russia’s stepped-up attacks on infrastructure are taking place as temperatures are dropping, raising fears of a humanitarian disaster in the coming winter months.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said yesterday that it was clear that Russia was aiming “to turn the cold of winter into a weapon of mass destruction” as the war heads into its 10th month. Ten million Ukrainians are currently without power, and half of the country’s energy infrastructure is either damaged or destroyed, according to the World Health Organization.

Russia’s strikes targeting the energy grid have forced the national utility to carry out rolling blackouts, leaving nearly everyone in the country without power for four to 12 hours a day.

Ukraine’s government is helping residents evacuate areas where it says it cannot guarantee sufficient power and heat, including the city of Kherson, now back under Ukraine’s control.

“Put simply, this winter will be about survival,” said Hans Kluge, the W.H.O.’s regional director for Europe. He expects as many as three million Ukrainians to leave their homes this winter to find warmth and safety.

Credit...Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

“They will face unique health challenges, including respiratory infections such as Covid-19, pneumonia and influenza, and the serious risk of diphtheria and measles in under-vaccinated populations,” he added.

Winter weather has already set in, with subfreezing temperatures and snow across much of the country. Ukraine and its allies are already preparing for the worst.

Zelensky has announced a national drive to prepare thousands of makeshift centers to provide basic services — electricity, mobile communications, internet access, heat, water, and first-aid supplies —  in the event of prolonged blackouts. Municipal workers in Kyiv are also setting up 1,000 heating shelters that can double as bunkers for hundreds of people, stocked with essential supplies to last more than a week

In its latest aid package, worth $400 million, the U.S. included more than 200 generators along with ammunition for the NASAMS air defense systems and the HIMARS artillery systems that it has already shipped to Ukraine. Some European cities also came together to start a drive to ship generators to Ukraine.

Even before Russia’s broader attacks on infrastructure, Ukraine was facing a humanitarian crisis. Almost 18 million people — more than 40 percent of the entire population — are in need of assistance, according to the U.N. Some 14 million have already been forced to flee their homes, including 6.2 million internally displaced, and nearly 7.7 million refugees.


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In Ukraine

Around the world

  • Poland’s plans to deploy Patriot air defense systems near the Ukrainian border signal growing worries that the war next door could spread, by accident or by design.

  • A court in Amsterdam ruled that squatters who moved into a mansion owned by Russian tech entrepreneur Arkady Volozh can continue living there.

  • High inflation and slow growth are the price that the global economy is paying for Russia’s war, the O.E.C.D. said in a new report.

  • The European Parliament voted in favor of a resolution designating Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, in a largely symbolic move.

  • Boris Johnson told CNN that France was “in denial” about the prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, and that Germany hoped for a quick Ukrainian defeat.

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Thanks for reading. We’ll be off for Thanksgiving on Friday, but back on Monday. — Carole

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