Retreating Russian troops cut power and water to millions of people in eastern Ukraine in revenge for Kyiv’s lightning counteroffensive, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Ukraine accused the Kremlin’s forces of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in Kharkiv and Donetsk regions after they were driven to abandon their strategically important stronghold in Izium over the weekend.

It comes after the Ukrainian military had allegedly retaken more than 1,160 square miles of territory since the onset of its blitz counter-offensive in late August.

Ukrainian officials said the targets of the retaliatory attacks included water facilities and a thermal power station in Kharkiv, and that they caused fires and widespread blackouts.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekov said Russian attacks on critical civilian sites plunged much of Ukraine’s second-largest city into darkness and deprived its inhabitants of running water on Sunday night, but the power has since been partially restored.

A man crosses a pitch-black street in Kharkiv on Sunday after Russian forces' alleged attacks targeting the power grid.
A man crosses a pitch-black street in Kharkiv on Sunday after Russian forces’ alleged attacks targeting the power grid.
AP

“You are heroes!!!” wrote Terekhov early in the morning on Telegram, referring to those restoring utilities. “Thanks to everyone who did everything possible on this most difficult night for Kharkiv to normalize the life of the city as soon as possible.”

The governor of the nearby Sumy region said more than 130 settlements were without power.

In a fiery social media post on Sunday, Zelensky accused Russia of committing “terrorist acts” by directing “deliberate and cynical missile strikes” at civilian infrastructure.

Firefighters work at a site of the 5th thermal power plant damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine September 11, 2022.
Firefighters work at a site of the 5th thermal power plant damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Sept. 11, 2022.
REUTERS
Firefighters work at a site of a thermal power plant damaged by a suspected Russian missile strike.
Firefighters work at a site of a thermal power plant damaged by a suspected Russian missile strike.
via REUTERS

A defiant Zelensky went on to state that if given a choice between being without gas, light, water and food, or being without Russian occupiers in their land, Ukrainians will always choose the latter.

“Did you really not understand anything, didn’t understand who we are?” the president added. “Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst – for us are not as scary and deadly as your ‘friendship and brotherhood.’”

In the end, he exclaimed: “We will be with gas, lights, water and food … and WITHOUT you!”

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky accused Russians of committing "terroristic acts" by targeting civilian infrastructure.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky accused Russians of committing “terroristic acts” by targeting civilian infrastructure.
REUTERS

The alleged attacks on eastern Ukraine’s power grid come after Kyiv’s forces had purportedly tripled their territorial gains in just over 48 hours, causing Russian troops to retreat from previously held positions in the east.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Monday that its troops had liberated more than 20 settlements within the past day, pushing Russian forces back to the northeastern border.

“In some areas of the front, our defenders reached the state border with the Russian Federation,” said Oleh Syniehubov, the governor of the northeastern Kharkiv region.

Firefighters in Kharkiv battled blazes and emergency staffer were busy repairing damaged utilities to restore power.
Firefighters in Kharkiv battled blazes and emergency staffer were busy repairing damaged utilities to restore power.
REUTERS

Over the weekend, the Russian Defense Ministry said troops would be pulled from two areas in that region to “regroup” in the eastern region of Donetsk.

After months of little movement on the battlefield, Kyiv’s sudden momentum has lifted Ukrainian morale and provoked outrage in Russia — and even some rare public criticism of President Vladimir Putin’s war.

Russian military bloggers and patriotic commentators slammed the Kremlin for failing to mobilize more forces and take stronger action against Ukraine.

On Saturday, the same day Russian forces allegedly retreated from the key logistical hub of Izium, Putin attended the opening of a new Ferris wheel in Moscow.

The power grid in eastern Ukraine came under fire after Ukrainian forces routed Moscow's troops, forcing them to retreat.
The power grid in eastern Ukraine came under fire after Ukrainian forces routed Moscow’s troops, forcing them to retreat.
REUTERS

Russia has continuously stopped short of calling its invasion of Ukraine a war, instead using the description “special military operation.” Instead of a mass mobilization that could spur civil discontent and protest, it has relied on a limited contingent of volunteers.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the Moscow-backed leader of the Russian region of Chechnya, publicly criticized the Russian Defense Ministry for what he called “mistakes” that made the Ukrainian blitz possible.

Even more notable, such criticism seeped onto state-controlled Russian TV.

“People who convinced President Putin that the operation will be fast and effective … these people really set up all of us,” Boris Nadezhdin, a former parliament member, said on a talk show on NTV television. “We’re now at the point here we have to understand that it’s absolutely impossible to defeat Ukraine using these resources and colonial war methods.”

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