UKRAINE: Ukrainian refugees, who have been compelled to flee their homes and move to neighbouring countries to survive the raging conflict with Russia, have been urged not to return until spring.
The move is taken to ease the pressure on energy after a wave of Russian attacks heavily compromised energy facilities in Ukraine, the government said.
“The networks will not cope,” said Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. “You see what Russia is doing.”
“We need to survive the winter,” she added.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russian air raids had strategically targeted energy and power infrastructure and destroyed more than a third of the country’s energy sector, imposing harsh restrictions on struggling Ukrainians approaching a freezing winter.
The Deputy Prime Minister clarified her statements saying that although she would encourage the Ukrainians to return in the spring, it would be advisable to refrain from returning now because Ukraine is still an active war zone and “the situation will only get worse”.
“If it is possible, stay abroad for the time being,” she added.
The deadly combat between Ukrainian and Russian forces in the heart of Ukraine has displaced millions of Ukrainians out of their home in a mass exodus.
According to the UN’s refugee agency, about 7.7 million refugees have fled Ukraine and moved to neighbouring countries across Europe, including Russia, out of a population of about 44 million.
Since Russian President Putin’s “special military operation” began on February 24, Ukraine has been plunged into chaos and grief, with funds debilitating every day.
President Zelensky has been left with no choice but to ask the international forum for urgent funds to cover an expected budget deficit of $38bn ((£33bn) next year.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that Ukraine would require $3bn every month just to survive the next year and $5bn if Moscow’s shelling and bombardment continue with full force.
The deputy mayor of the western city of Lviv, Serhiy Kiral, said that Russia has played it smart and decided to target critical energy infrastructure to debilitate the energy sector and jeopardize the lives of millions of Ukrainians who are afraid of running out of energy rations this approaching winter.
Russia has retorted saying that the energy attacks are in retaliation for Ukraine’s prominent role in bombing a crucial bridge linking mainland Russia to the Crimea peninsula, which President Putin annexed in 2014.
However, Ukraine has denied these allegations and never assumed responsibility for the attack.
Areas targeted by the latest attacks include the Cherkasy region, southeast of the capital Kyiv, and the city of Khmelnytskyi, further west.
On Friday President Zelensky accused Russia of supposedly planting mines at a hydroelectric dam in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, which is now occupied by Russian forces.
He further said that if the Kakhovka plant was destroyed, several thousands of Ukrainians would be in danger of flooding. Meanwhile, Russia has denied reports of blowing up the dam and said that Ukraine was firing missiles at it.