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Zelenskyy vows Ukraine will withstand Russian attacks on power networks

Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia’s new strategy of destroying Ukraine’s infrastructure and plunging it into darkness will not weaken the country’s resolve to liberate all occupied territories, describing the conflict as a “war of strength and resilience.”

Faced with Western fears of escalation, the Ukrainian president insisted that there would be no permanent solution to the war unless Russia withdraws from all the territories it occupied.

Moscow has stepped up its bombing campaign on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure since last month, hoping to force Kyiv to make concessions despite its progress on the battlefield.

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We must return all lands. . . Because I think the battlefield is the way to go when there is no diplomacy,” Zelensky told the Financial Times. If you can’t take your land back completely, the war is simply frozen. It’s only a matter of time before it resumes.

On Wednesday, Russia fired 70 missiles at infrastructure targets across Ukraine, leaving about 80 percent of the country in the dark and without water. All fifteen of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors have been shut down because electricity has become unstable.

Speaking in the presidential office, which was also out of the water supply, Zelensky said this week’s strike was unimaginable in the modern world.

“It was the kind of accident that didn’t happen because I don’t know how many years, maybe 80, 90 years: a country on the European continent where there was no light at all.”

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He said that Ukrainians can despair or fight. “The state resisted brilliantly. The energy workers, the state emergency ministry, the minesweepers, everyone worked to repair and restore energy and save at least a little water.

By Thursday morning, the nuclear reactors had been reconnected and water was starting to return in some districts of the capital, Kyiv. “This is a war about strength, about resilience, it’s about who stands stronger.”

Even before Wednesday’s strikes, half of the country’s power system was crippled by waves of Russian missile attacks, knocking out power for millions of people. After the entire capital’s water supply was cut off in Kyiv this week, some residents had to collect snow to melt in order to wash and cook.

Ukrainians line up to refill bottles with fresh drinking water in Kyiv on Thursday. © Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

Ukraine lacks replacement transformer units for its Soviet-era power grid after repeated Russian missile strikes on its grid. It is sourcing parts from Poland and Lithuania and is looking to ramp up domestic production, but it is taking four to eight months to assemble new units.

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Oleksandr Kubrakov, the infrastructure minister, said Ukraine needed several hundred million dollars in aid — as well as ongoing budget support — to urgently overhaul the energy system.

Zelensky also appealed to Ukraine’s Western partners to provide more air defense equipment to help protect critical infrastructure, as well as supplies of diesel for emergency generators and extra gas to help make up for power shortages.

The president said the attacks on civilian infrastructure show that Moscow has no intention of negotiating an end to the war.

Kyiv was resisting perceived pressure to show its openness to a final negotiated solution to the war. Some Western partners worry that any attempt by Ukraine to reclaim Crimea – which Russia annexed in 2014 and which it considers essential to its security – could lead to a dangerous escalation by Moscow, possibly even the use of nuclear weapons.

As Ukrainian forces advance against Russian forces in the south and east, Ukraine’s military objectives have hardened: It seeks to recapture territories occupied since February and territories captured in Russia’s 2014 offensive.

Zelensky admitted that the fate of Crimea was rising on the international agenda.

“I understand that everyone is confused by the situation and what will happen to Crimea. If someone is ready to offer us a way in terms of ending the occupation of Crimea by non-military means, I will only be in favor,” Zelensky said. [does not involve] removal of occupation and [Crimea] is part of the Russian Federation, so no one should waste their time on this. It’s a waste of time.”

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