As Russian strike puts energy grid at risk, Ukraine tells refugees not to return this winter




CNN

Ukraine has urged refugees who fled the country following Russia’s invasion not to return home this winter, after Russian drone and missile attacks threatened to overwhelm the country’s fragile grid.

In a video message, Ukrainian Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk advised Ukrainians “not to return yet.”

“We have to survive the winter. (If people return) the power grid could fail,” he said.

The warning comes after strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have caused blackouts across the country and threatened a crisis. winter for those who still live there.

Russian missiles and Iranian-made drones have “destroyed more than a third” of Ukraine’s energy sector, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday at an international conference on Ukraine’s reconstruction.

“You see what Russia is doing. Everyone sees that,” Vereshchuk said. “Returning now means exposing yourself, your children, vulnerable relatives to this.”

About 7.7 million people have fled Ukraine since the war began, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Most have settled elsewhere in Europe, with Poland and Germany recording the arrival of more than a million refugees.

Vereshchuk noted that it might be welcome once the winter is over. “In the spring, I would very much like to work together to rebuild our Kharkiv region, Kherson region and the rest of our cities and settlements here in Ukraine,” he said.

Vereshchuk added that he understood that the situation could get worse, but whatever happens, “we survive this winter and then think about everything else.”

Power plants and other key sites have been targeted by Russian airstrikes in recent weeks, which Moscow launched after it saw Kiev’s forces regain ground in the northeast and south, shifting the momentum of the ground war back to Ukraine.

Addressing the meeting in Berlin via video link, Zelensky said the attacks were aimed at “making it harder to endure this winter”.

At the conference, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the strikes “pure acts of terror”.

Moscow was “deliberately carrying out attacks on civilian infrastructure with a very clear goal: to cut off water, electricity and heating to men, women and children as winter approaches,” he said. “These are pure acts of terror. Russia tries to paralyze Ukraine, but we will not let this happen.’

On the other hand, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for a “new Marshall Plan” to rebuild Ukraine, aimed at planning and financing the post-war reconstruction effort.

“We don’t know when this war will end. But it will end,” Scholz said, adding that helping Ukraine recover would be a “generational challenge” and would require “the combined strength of the entire international community.”