Intensifying Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy facilities are worsening humanitarian conditions across the war-torn country, where heavy snow and freezing temperatures have already arrived, U.N. officials said in December.

Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenca told the U.N. Security Council that Russia’s continuing daily attacks on Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure have resulted in civilian casualties, as Moscow continues to escalate its barrages in populated areas – including the capital of Kyiv.

“All attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure must stop immediately,” he said. “They are prohibited under international humanitarian law and are simply unacceptable.”

Jenca also raised the risks to all four of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, which is Europe’s largest, suffered its eighth complete off-site power outage since the full-scale invasion, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Jenca said.

IAEA staff at the Khmelnitsky plant in western Ukraine reported hearing several explosions close by in late November.

Ramesh Rajasingham, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator, told the council “the deaths, injuries, and level of destruction of vital civilian infrastructure is staggering.”

“Many people have been left without access to heat, electricity and water, particularly in the east and south,” he said. “Amid freezing temperatures, this damage is particularly threatening the survival of the most vulnerable — among them the elderly and those with disabilities.”

After 24 months of fighting, since Russia brutally attacked Ukraine without provocation in February 2022, “millions of children, women and men are now faced with the prospect of yet another winter of severe hardship amid the impact of increased attacks on hospitals, electricity transmission systems, and gas and water supplies,” said Rajasingham.

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood reminded the council that last winter “Russia sought to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and deprive people of heat and electricity at the coldest time of the year.”

Russia has already weaponized winter for a second year, after launching targeted air strikes on defensive systems that were put in place to protect energy infrastructure.

Edith M. Lederer

Associated Press


Mishchenko Svitlana, R. Rizvanov, Daniil Tokmakov, and Andrii Marushchynets (via Shutterstock)