Russia's recent strikes against Ukraine have disrupted power and water supplies in the country over the last month.
The Ukrainian government said Moscow has been deliberately targeting critical facilities in the capital Kyiv, which were responsible for providing essential supplies – such as heating facilities – to residents to survive through the long winter ahead.
In Ukraine, temperatures can plunge to below minus 20 degrees Celsius in the winter, leading to increased fears of what massive disruptions to power supplies could mean in the coming months.
Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said that in the immediate aftermath of the Russian strikes, 80 percent of the city's residents were without water, and as many as 350,000 apartments were devoid of electricity.
Even though electricity supply was restored to some extent over the next few days, around 40 percent of the population was still left without electricity and around 270,000 homes were without water.
People also lined up in long queues across Kyiv to collect water from pumps.
Apart from Kyiv, energy supplies were also disrupted in Kharkiv, the BBC reported.
Is Russia Trying To Freeze Ukrainians to Death?
Several experts have condemned Russia and President Vladimir Putin for the attacks, which according to them are being targeted at energy supplies deliberately to "freeze millions of Ukrainians to death".
Writing for the think-tank Atlantic Council, former public policy professor Dennis Soltys and political science professor Alexander Motyl said that the Kremlin's efforts to deprive Ukrainians of essential heating facilities showcases the country's "weaponisation of winter."
They have also cited similarities between the current bombing programme and the alleged "genocide" carried out by the erstwhile Soviet Union in the 1930s.
The 1930s campaign, carried out at the behest of the then Soviet premier Joseph Stalin, had "engineered an artificial famine and starved millions of Ukrainians to death in a bid to crush the country’s statehood ambitions," the experts said.
Stalin's campaign is known by the name "Holodomor," which means "death by hunger." The current Russian bombings have also been given an "eerily similar name" - "Kholodomor," or "death by freezing."
"Russia's invasion is now entering an ominous new stage. Moscow’s decision to deprive Ukraine's civilian population of heating and other essential services during the winter season places tens of millions of lives in jeopardy," the experts stated.
They also urged the global community to act against Moscow's current campaign, before it is too late. They said that when 'Holodomor' was carried out in the 1930s, the west had turned a blind eye. However, the same mistake must not be repeated this time around, they cautioned.
"The prospect of a humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine now demands the kind of tough and urgent response from the international community that has often been lacking," the article read.
Another Humanitarian Crisis in the Making
If Russia's attacks on critical infrastructure facilities continue, Ukraine is bound to face a massive humanitarian crisis throughout the winter – leaving thousands without the means for survival.
At the outset of the winter, an official from electricity company Ukrenergo said that "virtually all" large non-nuclear power stations across Ukraine had been hit.
"This is the biggest missile attack on electricity infrastructure in history. Therefore, the impact is huge. They (Russia) are trying to specifically destroy the Ukrainian power system, and this supplies tens of millions of the population," chief executive of Ukrenergo Volodymyr Kudrytskyi was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
Already, power cuts in the country have lasted for several hours – leaving a large number of people without electricity.
Kudrytskyi said that if Russia continued to attack critical infrastructure, it would mean that power cuts in Ukraine would last longer – which could lead to the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of vulnerable groups of people, including the aged and children.
The bombing of power plants had started last month. On Monday, as many as 55 cruise missiles and five drones attacked hydro plants in Ukraine for the first time. Ahead of the war, hydro was responsible for around 14 percent Ukraine's energy capacity.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has sought to buy spare parts and electricity supply from the European Union and the United States. However, unless Ukraine's national grid is repaired, authorities will not be able to distribute electricity imported from the west across the country.
"We can buy some energy from the EU because the Ukrainian power system is connected to the European power grid," Kudrytskyi said, adding, "However, we might be unable to deliver this important energy to certain regions, if the grid is damaged."
The energy boss also highlighted the possibility of transmission bottlenecks in power supply.
The recent Russian strikes come in the backdrop of repeated setbacks for the country, including losing territory that they had initially held within Ukraine - such as Kherson.
However, instead of celebrating the wins, Ukraine and President Volodmyr Zelenskyy must look at them through a more pessimistic lens. For, as Russia expert at the Chatham House thinktank John Lough said: "If Putin can’t take Ukraine, he’ll wreck it".
(With inputs from BBC and The Guardian.)
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