Russia rained down missiles across Ukraine on Wednesday, forcing shutdowns of nuclear power plants and killing civilians as Moscow pursues its campaign to plunge Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.

Multiple regions reported attacks in quick succession and Ukraine’s Energy Ministry said that “the vast majority of
electricity consumers were cut off.” Officials in Kyiv said three people were killed and nine wounded in the capital after a  Russian strike hit a two-storey building.

Power was knocked out for more than half of neighbouring Moldova, the first time a neighbouring state has reported such extensive damage from the war in Ukraine.

The entire Kyiv region is now without electricity, according to Gov. Oleksiy Kuleba, and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said water supplies were knocked out for the entire city.

Zelenskyy promises ‘invincibility centres’

Three Ukrainian nuclear power plants were shut down after the strikes, but nuclear power operator Energoatom said radiation levels at all nuclear sites in the country were normal.

State-owned grid operator Ukrenergo said the repair work would begin when the air raid sirens stop, and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy said, “We’ll renew everything and get through all of this because we are an unbreakable people.”

Since October, Russia has repeatedly targeted electric power and heating infrastructure. Moscow says the aim is to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight; Kyiv says the intentional strikes on civilian infrastructure constitute a war crime.

WATCH | Shelling hits dangerously close to Ukraine nuclear plant:

Shelling hits dangerously close to Ukraine nuclear plant

United Nations officials say shelling around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant hit dangerously close to some of its reactors over the weekend, though it’s unclear who is to blame.

In an overnight video address, Zelenskyy announced special “invincibility centres” would be set up around Ukraine to provide electricity, heat, water, internet, mobile phone connections and a pharmacy, free of charge and around the clock.

“If massive Russian strikes happen again and it’s clear power will not be restored for hours, the ‘invincibility centres’ will go into action with all key services,” Zelenskyy said.

Russia may be running out of drones: U.K.

Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities follow a series of battlefield setbacks that have included a retreat from the southern city of Kherson to the east bank of the Dnipro River that bisects the country.

Russia has been striking Ukraine with expensive long-range cruise missiles and with cheap Iranian-made drones.  Britain’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday there had been no public reports of Russia using Iranian one-way attack drones since around Nov. 17, which it said was a sign Moscow might be running out of them, and would try to get more.

On the Ukrainian side, the U.S. is sending another $400 million US in weapons, ammunition and generators to Ukraine, the White House announced Wednesday, and is pulling the gear from its own stockpiles to get the support to Kyiv as fast as possible.

Including the latest aid, the U.S. has committed more than $19 billion in weapons and other equipment to Ukraine since Russia attacked on Feb. 24. 

Battles raged in the east, where Russia is pressing an offensive along a stretch of front line west of the city of Donetsk, which has been held by its proxies since 2014. The Donetsk region was the scene of fierce attacks and constant shelling over the past 24 hours, Zelenskyy said.

Ukrainian authorities said an overnight rocket attack destroyed a hospital maternity ward in southern Ukraine, killing a two-day-old baby.

Following the overnight strike in Vilniansk, close to the city of Zaporizhzhia, the baby’s mother and a doctor were pulled alive from the rubble.

The region’s governor said the rockets were Russian.

The strike adds to the gruesome toll suffered by hospitals and other medical facilities in the Russian invasion, which will enter its 10th month this week.

‘Why kill children?’

First Lady Olena Zelenska wrote on Twitter that a two-day-old boy died in the strike and expressed her condolences. “Horrible pain. We will never forget and never forgive,” she said.

Medical workers’ efforts have been complicated by the succession of Russian attacks in recent weeks on Ukraine’s infrastructure. The situation is even worse in the southern city of Kherson, from which Russia retreated nearly two weeks ago after months of occupation, cutting power and water lines.

WATCH | Newborn killed in strike, Ukraine says:

2-day-old baby killed by Russian strike on hospital, Ukrainian officials say

Ukrainian officials say a hospital in Zaporizhzhia was destroyed in a Russian bombardment. A two-day-old baby in the hospital’s maternity ward was killed, they said.

Many doctors in the city are working in the dark, unable to use elevators to transport patients to surgery and operating with headlamps, cell phones and flashlights. In some hospitals, key equipment no longer works.

“Breathing machines don’t work, X-ray machines don’t work … There is only one portable ultrasound machine and we carry it constantly,” said Volodymyr Malishchuk, the head of surgery at a children’s hospital in the city.

On Tuesday, after strikes on Kherson seriously wounded 13-year-old Artur Voblikov, a team of health staff carefully maneouvred the sedated boy up six flights of a narrow staircase to an operating room to amputate his left arm.

Picking up a piece of shrapnel found in a 14-year-old boy’s stomach, Malishchuk said children are arriving with severe head injuries and ruptured internal organs.

Artur’s mother, Natalia Voblikova, sat in the dark hospital with her daughter, waiting for his surgery to end.

“You can’t even call [Russians] animals, because animals take care of their own,” said Voblikova, wiping tears from her eyes. “But the children…. Why kill children?”

Doctors operate on 13-year-old Artur Voblikov inside a hospital in Kherson, southern Ukraine, Tuesday. As attacks increase in the recently liberated city of Kherson, doctors are struggling to cope amid little water, electricity and equipment. (Bernat Armangue/The Associated Press)

Oil price cap

In Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed a non-binding but symbolically significant resolution labelling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism for its actions in Ukraine.

Several hours later, the European Parliament’s website was hit by a cyberattack.

Meanwhile, European officials were debating the details of a global price cap on Russian oil, a U.S.-backed proposal taken up by the G7 and set to come into effect on Dec. 5 with the intent of curbing Moscow’s ability to fund the war.

While Western sanctions already mean Russian seaborne crude is now mostly sold in Asia, the trade still mainly involves European shippers and insurers who would be barred from transporting cargo above the capped price. 

A European diplomat said the price cap being discussed would be in the $65-70 US per barrel range. Russia’s Urals crude blend already trades at around $70 a barrel, a steep discount to other benchmarks, as a result of sanctions.

The World Health Organization warned this week that hundreds of Ukrainian hospitals and health-care facilities lacked fuel, water and electricity.

Europe’s biggest cities will donate power generators and transformers to help Ukrainians get through the harsh winter ahead, as part of a drive launched on Wednesday.

In Vatican City, Pope Francis on Wednesday linked the suffering of Ukrainians now to the 1930s “genocide artificially caused by Stalin,” when the Soviet leader was blamed for creating a man-made famine in Ukraine believed to have killed more than three million people.

Francis’ linking of the plight of Ukrainian civilians today to those killed by starvation 90 years ago, and his willingness to call it a “genocide” caused by Josef Stalin, marked a sharp escalation in papal rhetoric against Russia. As of this year, only 17 countries have officially recognized the famine, known as the Holodomor, as a genocide, according to the Holodomor Museum in Kyiv.

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