A flotilla of tankers carrying liquefied natural gas have been parked in a maritime traffic jam off the coast of Spain in recent days, waiting to unload their precious cargo for Europe’s power grid. In Finland, where sweltering sauna baths are a national pastime, the government is urging friends and families to take saunas together to save energy.
Both efforts are emblematic of the measures Europe is taking to increase energy supplies and conserve fuel before a winter without Russian gas.
The tactic by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to weaponize energy against countries supporting Ukraine has produced a startling transformation in how Europe generates and saves power. Countries are banding together to buy, borrow and build additional power supplies, while pushing out major conservation programs that recall the response to the 1970s oil crisis.
forcing shutdowns at energy-intensive businesses, including the production of steel, chemical and glass. Companies are furloughing workers. Governments are issuing more debt to shield households and businesses from pain. There are growing projections that the energy crisis will tilt Europe into a recession next year.
went on a buying spree, has put so much gas into reserve that there’s no longer room to store the incoming fuel. Europe still gets a small supply — around 7 percent — of natural gas from Russia through pipelines running beneath Ukraine. If that flow is severed, several countries will be in a bind.
And some Europeans may decide that they aren’t so willing after all to make personal sacrifices for Ukraine as household energy bills spiral higher. Street protests against the soaring cost of living have broken out in Paris, Prague and elsewhere, chipping away at Europe’s united front for sanctions against Russia.
fill most of their gas reserves — enough to provide around three months of power — despite dwindling Russian flows. Unseasonably warm weather in Europe is delaying the need for early heating, so the stock may last longer than expected.
The consulting group Rystad Energy has calculated that Europe has enough gas stored to survive this winter unless it gets very cold, while natural gas prices have fallen to their lowest levels since June.
even tougher winter next year as natural gas stocks are used up and as new supplies to replace Russian gas, including increased shipments from the United States or Qatar, are slow to come online, the International Energy Agency said in its annual World Energy Outlook, released last week.
Europe’s activity appears to be accelerating a global transition toward cleaner technologies, the I.E.A. added, as countries respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by embracing hydrogen fuels, electric vehicles, heat pumps and other green energies.
But in the short term, countries will be burning more fossil fuels in response to the natural gas shortages.
gas fields in Groningen, which had been slated to be sealed because of earthquakes triggered by the extraction of the fuel.
Eleven countries, including Germany, Finland and Estonia, are now building or expanding a total of 18 offshore terminals to process liquid gas shipped in from other countries. Other projects in Latvia and Lithuania are under consideration.
Nuclear power is winning new supportin countries that had previously decided to abandon it, including Germany and Belgium. Finland is planning to extend the lifetime of one reactor, while Poland and Romania plan to build new nuclear power plants.
European Commission blueprint, are voluntary and rely on buy-ins from individuals and businesses whose utility bills may be subsidized by their governments.
Energy use dropped in September in several countries, although it is hard to know for sure if the cause was balmy weather, high prices or voluntary conservation efforts inspired by a sense of civic duty. But there are signs that businesses, organizations and the public are responding. In Sweden, for example, the Lund diocese said it planned to partially or fully close 150 out of 540 churches this winter to conserve energy.
Germany and France have issued sweeping guidance, which includes lowering heating in all homes, businesses and public buildings, using appliances at off-peak hours and unplugging electronic devices when not in use.
Denmark wants households to shun dryers and use clotheslines. Slovakia is urging citizens to use microwaves instead of stoves and brush their teeth with a single glass of water.
website.“Short showers,” wrote one homeowner; another announced: “18 solar panels coming to the roof in October.”
“In the coming winter, efforts to save electricity and schedule the consumption of electricity may be the key to avoiding electricity shortages,” Fingrad, the main grid operator, said.
Businesses are being asked to do even more, and most governments have set targets for retailers, manufacturers and offices to find ways to ratchet down their energy use by at least 10 percent in the coming months.
Governments, themselves huge users of energy, are reducing heating, curbing streetlight use and closing municipal swimming pools. In France, where the state operates a third of all buildings, the government plans to cut energy use by two terawatt-hours, the amount used by a midsize city.
Whether the campaigns succeed is far from clear, said Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, a European think tank. Because the recommendations are voluntary, there may be little incentive for people to follow suit — especially if governments are subsidizing energy bills.
In countries like Germany, where the government aimsto spend up to €200 billion to help households and businesses offset rising energy prices starting next year, skyrocketing gas prices are hitting consumers now. “That is useful in getting them to lower their energy use,” he said.But when countries fund a large part of the bill, “there is zero incentive to save on energy,” he said.
PARIS — France began pumping natural gas directly to Germany for the first time on Thursday, part of a landmark agreement struck by both governments to help each other confront Europe’s energy crisis as Russia cuts off gas supplies to Europe.
Volumes of gas capable of producing around 31 gigawatt-hours per day of electricity began flowing early on Thursday into Germany, the French network operator GRTgaz said. The connection has a maximum capacity of 100 gigawatt-hours per day, equal to the power output of four nuclear reactors, or about 10 percent of the amount of liquefied natural gas that France imports each day, the company said.
GRTgaz said that months ago it had begun modifying its pipeline networks to be able to send gas to Germany. For years, the German economy has relied on Russian gas exports, but this year Moscow has slashed them in response to Western sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.
France gets its gas from the Netherlands, Norway and Russia, according to the International Energy Agency, although supplies from Russia were cut off in September. It also receives deliveries of liquefied natural gas from several L.N.G. terminals.
To face the energy crunch, France has been storing gas and getting more of it from its European partners and Qatar. Recently, President Emmanuel Macron has burnished relations with Algeria, a former French colony, which has agreed to sharply increase gas exports to France.
In exchange for the gas from France, Germany has pledged to export more electricity to that country as it grapples with an unprecedented crisis in its nuclear power industry that has reduced power production.
“Germany needs our gas, and we need the electricity produced in the rest of Europe, and in particular in Germany,” President Emmanuel Macron said last month after speaking with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, about the agreement. “We will contribute to European solidarity in gas and benefit from European solidarity in electricity.”
“Merci beaucoup,” Klaus Müller, the head of Germany’s federal network agency, wrote in a Twitter message to GRTGaz on Thursday. “The gas deliveries from France, through Saarland, help Germany’s energy security.”
European countries have pledged to work together to get through winter as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine raises the prospect of a prolonged energy crisis. On Thursday, Spain proposed increasing its gas deliveries to France by 18 percent in the coming months, Spain’s ecological transition minister, Teresa Ribera, said.
As Europe’s largest economy and the one most dependent on Russian gas, Germany has been among the countries worst affected by the energy crisis rippling across Europe, where natural gas costs about 10 times what it did a year ago. Both Berlin and Paris have imposed a broad range of conservation measures, including lowering thermostats and hot water heaters, encouraging the use of public transport and requiring public buildings to turn off lights early.
The energy crunch has forced European governments to fall back on less-desirable power sources that they had been trying to phase out in a push to go green. Germany, for instance, has decided to keep coal-fired power plants online and restart several others that had been mothballed.
In addition, Germany decided to keep two of its three remaining nuclear power plants operational as an emergency reserve for its electricity supply, breaking a political taboo and delaying its plans to become the first industrial power to go nuclear-free for its energy.
And in France, the government is facing an energy crisis of its own after half its fleet of nuclear power plants — the largest in Europe — was taken offline earlier this year for inspections and repairs. The electricity shortage has driven prices to record levels, forcing factories to cut production and put tens of thousands of employees on furlough.
Bruno Le Maire, France’s economy minister, warned Thursday that high energy prices continued to pose a “major risk” to French industry and would lead to a 10 percent decline in industrial production this winter.
Berlin this month announced a 200 billion euro (about $196 billion) aid plan for German households, businesses and industries. It includes policies to curb natural gas and electricity prices domestically. And France has already spent around €100 billion since last winter doing the same.
But with Mr. Scholz facing pushback over his government’s decision to keep nuclear plants running, Germany’s ability to uphold its end of the energy-swap deal with France may wind up depending on the French themselves: GRTgaz said that the exported French gas would allow Germany to produce more electricity, which in turn would be sent back to the French grid during peak hours.
“If we did not have European solidarity,” Mr. Macron said in a televised interview on Wednesday, “we would have serious problems.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Six and a half feet down a ladder inside a small shed at the back of Oleksandr Kadet’s home is an underground room with a cement hatch that he hopes he never has to use.
For the past two weeks, Mr. Kadet, 32, said that he and his wife, who live outside the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, had been preparing for the possibility of a nuclear attack by stocking the room — an old well that they converted into a bunker — with bottled water, canned food, radios and power banks.
“We are more anxious now, especially after yesterday’s attacks,” Mr. Kadet said on Tuesday, a day after a series of Russian missile attacks across Ukraine. “But we do think that in case of a nuclear explosion, we will be able to survive if we stay in the shelter for some time.”
The fears of escalation rose on Saturday after an attack on the 12-mile Kerch Strait Bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. Initially, Ukrainians celebrated, but that quickly gave way to worry that such a brazen assault on a symbol of President Vladimir V. Putin’s rule could prompt a severe retaliation.
Even before these recent events, though, concerns about the potential for a nuclear disaster had increasingly been making their way into Ukraine’s national psyche. The fear is that Russia could either use tactical nuclear arms or launch a conventional attack on one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.
U.S. officials have said they think the chances of Russia’s using nuclear weapons are low, and senior American officials say they have seen no evidence that Mr. Putin is moving any of his nuclear assets.
On Sunday, Mr. Putin called the assault on the bridge a “terrorist attack aimed at destroying the critically important civilian infrastructure of the Russian Federation.”
But his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, appeared to tamp down fears of a nuclear reprisal, saying that the attack on the bridge did not fall within the category under Russia’s defense doctrine that allowed for such a response.
Last month, Mr. Putin raised fears that he could resort to nuclear weapons when he warned that he would “use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” if Russian-controlled territory was threatened.
“This is not a bluff,” he said.
Days later, Russia illegally annexed four Ukrainian territories.
Mr. Kadet, who noted that he had begun preparing two weeks ago, said it felt better to have an action plan.
“It’s psychologically easier because you know you are at least somehow prepared for it,” he said. “It’s not a guarantee it will save you, but at least you’re ready.”
Residents of Kyiv said that they had felt wary even before the most recent missile strikes there on Monday.
Immediately after the bridge attack, many Ukrainians had shared their glee on social media. They toasted triumphantly in the capital’s bars over the weekend, and posed for selfies in front of posters of the burning bridge.
But the worry soon set in.
“I feel this real fear about how the Russians will answer this,” said Krystina Gevorkova, 30, who was shopping with her friend in Kyiv on Sunday. “Earlier it had felt safer here,” she added. “Now, I have this feeling like something is going to happen.”
Kyiv has for months been spared the worst of the Russian onslaught while Moscow focused its attention instead on southeastern Ukraine. But on Monday, a Russian missile struck just blocks away from where Ms. Gevorkova had spoken.
She said that she had been reading up on how to stay safe during a nuclear war, but that she was skeptical that it would help.
“We can’t really do anything,” she said.
The war has felt far from Kyiv in recent months, as life’s rhythms return to a semblance of normalcy after Russian forces were ousted from parts of northeastern Ukraine. Nevertheless, the city has also been slowly preparing for a potential nuclear attack.
The Kyiv City Council said on Friday that potassium iodide pills would be distributed to residents in case of a nuclear incident “based on medical recommendations,” adding that the pills were also available in city pharmacies.
Potassium iodide is used to saturate a person’s thyroid with iodine so that radioactive iodine inhaled or ingested after exposure will not be retained by the gland.
Alina Bozhedomova, 23, a pharmacist in Kyiv, said that customers were coming in daily looking for the pills, but added, “I haven’t seen people panicking about it.”
Some elementary schools have advised parents to prepare emergency packs for their children to keep with them at school.
Nadiia Stelmakh, 50, who works in a market selling home goods, said that one mother had come to her with a list from the school that included latex gloves, a poncho, boot covers, tissues, wet wipes and a flashlight.
“People are really concerned right now,” she said. Her husband, Volodymyr Stelmakh, who has another stall nearby, agreed.
“I have an emergency bag packed,” he said, “but I think if the nuclear threat is imminent, you will have no time to run away.
After worries grew about the security of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the country’s southeast in recent weeks, Ukraine’s Ministry of Health issued guidance about how to respond to a nuclear incident.
The risk of nuclear fallout can feel very real in Ukraine, a country that still bears the scars of the Chernobyl accident in 1986, one of the worst nuclear disasters in history. Chernobyl is only about 60 miles north of Kyiv.
And some who experienced the life-threatening fallout firsthand say that they, possibly more than anyone, understand the full risk of nuclear exposure. Oleksandr, 55, who asked that his last name not be used, said that he and his family had fled Chernobyl for Kyiv immediately after the meltdown, when he was just 18.
His family closely followed guidance to move south, as winds were pushing radioactive materials north, and he said that was the only reason they escaped unscathed.
“Now, people here are really not ready. People don’t know what to do,” he said. “There is not enough information.”
He owns a market stand that sells household necessities and said that more people had come in during the past two weeks preparing for a nuclear disaster, buying flashlights, batteries, knives, radios and small camp stoves.
While some were preparing for the worst, others remained optimistic that Russia would never carry out such an extreme attack, which would draw international outrage.
Dmytro Yastrub, 31, said he felt more concerned about Mr. Putin using conventional weapons to target Kyiv.
“I presume something will happen” after the bridge attack, he said, standing outside a bar in the Kyiv city center on Sunday evening with a group of friends. But, he added, the risk of a nuclear attack was not weighing heavy on his mind.
Svetlana Zozulia, 47, and her husband, Vladyslav Zozulia, 37, were walking in central Kyiv with their daughter, Anastasiia, 11, on Sunday night. Ms. Zozulia said she tried to remain optimistic and did not believe that Mr. Putin would launch a nuclear attack on Ukraine.
But she did buy potassium iodide tablets just in case, she said.
“I think our success disturbs him,” Ms. Zozulia said. “But there is also a threat for him if he chooses a nuclear attack.”
AT THE KHERSON FRONT, Ukraine — The commander banged on the door furiously.
“I need help!” he shouted.
When Tetiana Kozyr opened up, the commander rushed in, carrying a young soldier on his shoulders. She said the young man was sunburned, thin and gravely wounded.
The Ukrainians were trying to recapture her village, the smallest dot on the most detailed military maps. Russian forces had just blown up three Ukrainian tanks. Flames leaped off the roofs of neighboring houses.
refused to let his commanders retreat from the city of Kherson, according to American officials.
recently said that Ukraine was losing 50 soldiers a day.
officially announced the beginning of the offensive. She fled a few days later and now lives in a displaced persons shelter in the city of Zaporizhzhia.
She said that when the commander first arrived with the wounded soldier, she panicked.
“I was yelling at him: ‘Why did you bring him here? The Russians will kill us all!’” she said.
But the commander just stepped through the doorway, desperate to find shelter. The village was on fire, in the middle of two armies blasting each other.
She shrunk back as her husband and the commander pressed bandages to the young man’s wounds. Shrapnel had sliced through his back and lungs. Her kitchen floor was soon covered in blood.
That night, she and her husband slept in their cellar. The commander curled up next to the wounded soldier on the kitchen floor.
When Ms. Kozyr stepped outside the next morning, to check on her calf and pigs, she passed by the kitchen and peered through the window.
The soldier’s hands were curled, his body stiff. He was dead.
She started crying at the memory of it, pulling a small rag out of her pocket and wiping her eyes. But she did not question the counteroffensive.
“It needed to be done,” she said. And then she repeated herself, a little more softly. “It needed to be done.”
Oleksandra Mykolyshyn and Oleksandr Chubko contributed reporting from Mykolaiv, Ukraine, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Pokrovsk, Ukraine.
The South Korean navy said the training is meant to boost the allies’ military readiness in response to North Korean nuclear and missile tests.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan arrived in the South Korean port of Busan on Friday ahead of the two countries’ joint military exercise that aims to show their strength against growing North Korean threats.
The joint drills will be the first involving a U.S. aircraft carrier in the region since 2017, when the U.S. sent three aircraft carriers including the Reagan for naval drills with South Korea in response to North Korean nuclear and missile tests.
Related StoryNorth Korea Says It Will Never Give Up Nukes To Counter U.S.
The allies this year have revived their large-scale military drills that were downsized or shelved in previous years to support diplomacy with Pyongyang or because of COVID-19, responding to North Korea’s resumption of major weapons testing and increasing threats of nuclear conflicts with Seoul and Washington.
The South Korean navy said the training is meant to boost the allies’ military readiness and show “the firm resolve by the Korea-U.S. alliance for the sake of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”
“The commitment of the U.S. carrier strike group operating in and around the peninsula illustrates our commitment to stand together and our desire and focus ensuring that we are interoperable and integrated to face any challenge or threat whenever we are required,” Rear Adm. Michael Donnelly, commander of the carrier strike group, said in a news conference.
The North Korean threat is also expected to be a key agenda when U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visits South Korea next week after attending the state funeral in Tokyo of slain former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.
The Reagan’s arrival in South Korea comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un told Pyongyang’s rubber-stamp parliament this month he would never abandon his nuclear weapons and missiles he needs to counter what he perceives as U.S. hostility.
North Korea also passed a new law that enshrined its status as a nuclear power and authorized the preemptive use of nuclear weapons over a broad range of scenarios where the country or its leadership comes under threat.
Sung Kim, the Biden administration’s special representative for North Korea, met with South Korean counterpart Kim Gunn on Thursday in Seoul, where they expressed “serious concern” over the North’s escalating nuclear doctrine spelled out in the new law, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said.
The diplomats reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea in the event of a nuclear war with the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear. The allies also maintained their months-old assessment that North Korea is gearing up to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017 and discussed “stern” countermeasures to such an action, the ministry said.
North Korea has dialed up weapons testing to a record pace in 2022, launching more than 30 ballistic weapons including its intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017, as it exploits a divide in the U.N. Security Council deepened over Russia’s war on Ukraine.
While North Korea’s ICBMs garner much of U.S. attention because they pose a potential threat to the American homeland, the North has also been expanding its arsenal of nuclear-capable, shorter-range missiles designed to evade missile defenses in South Korea.
North Korea’s expanding arsenal and threats of preemptive nuclear attacks have triggered concerns in South Korea over the credibility of the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” protecting its allies in the event of war.
Related StoryU.S., South Korea Open To Expanded Military Drills To Deter North
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, a conservative who took office in May, has vowed to enhance South Korea’s conventional missile capabilities and work with the Biden administration to develop more effective strategies to deter North Korean attacks.
Senior U.S. and South Korean officials met in Washington this month for discussions on the allies’ deterrence strategies and issued a statement reaffirming that “any (North Korean) nuclear attack would be met with an overwhelming and decisive response.” The statement said the United States reiterated “its ironclad and unwavering commitment to draw on the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear,” to provide extended deterrence to South Korea.
North Korea has so far rejected U.S. and South Korean calls to return to nuclear diplomacy, which have been stalled since 2019 over disagreements in exchanging the release of U.S.-led sanctions against the North and the North’s disarmament steps.
North Korea has harshly criticized Yoon for continuing military exercises with the U.S. and also for letting South Korean civilian activists fly anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets and other “dirty waste” across the border by balloon, even dubiously claiming the items caused its COVID-19 outbreak.
South Korean after North Korea last month warned of “deadly” retaliation, triggering concern North Korea may react with a weapons test or even border skirmishes.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, pleaded for activists to stop, citing safety reasons. Lee Hyo-jung, the ministry’s spokesperson, also said Friday that South Korea was prepared to sternly respond to any North Korean retaliation over leafleting.
KYIV, Ukraine — Moscow began orchestrating referendums on joining Russia in areas it occupies in Ukraine on Friday, an effort widely seen as a sham that is expected to culminate in the annexation of an area larger than Portugal.
While the Kremlin has used referendums and annexation in the past to exert its will, the boldness of President Vladimir V. Putin’s gambit in Ukraine far exceeds anything it has tried before. Huge numbers of people have fled the areas that Russia controls, the process has been rushed andreferendums are taking place against a backdrop of oppression — with U.N. experts citing evidence of war crimes in a forceful new statement.
The ballots being distributed had one question: Do you wish to secede from Ukraine and create an independent state that will enter the Russian Federation?
“We will be able to make our historic choice,” Kirill Stremousov, a leader of the Russian occupation administration in the southern region of Kherson, said in a statement.
He said the wording on the ballots — in both Ukrainian and Russian — was “in accordance with international law,” but even before the first vote, the referendum plans were met with international condemnation.
President Biden, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly this week, said that “if nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences,” then the global security order established to prevent the horrors of World War II from repeating will be imperiled.
Russian proxy officials in four regions — Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizka in the south — earlier this week announced plans to hold referendums over four days beginning on Friday. Russia controls nearly all of two of the four regions, Luhansk and Kherson, but only a fraction of the other two, Zaporizka and Donetsk.
Ukrainian officials have dismissed the voting as grotesque theater — staging polls in cities laid to waste by Russian forces and abandoned by most residents. President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Ukraine’s allies for their steadfast support and said “the farce” of “sham referenda” would do nothing to change his nation’s fight to drive Russia from Ukraine.
Ukrainian partisans, sometimes working with special operations forces, have blown up warehouses holding ballots and buildings where Russian proxy officials preparing for the vote held meetings..
An explosion rocked the Russian-controlled southern city of Melitopol on Friday morning before the vote got underway. Ivan Fedorov, the exiled mayor, warned residents to stay away from Russian military personnel and equipment.
To give the appearance of widespread participation, minors ages 13 to 17 have been encouraged to vote, the Security Services of Ukraine warned on Thursday.
And Ukrainian officials said that workers were being forced to vote under threat of losing their jobs.
The exiled mayor of the occupied city of Enerhodar, the satellite town of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the south, told residents to stay away from polling stations.
“Stay at home if possible and do not open the door to strangers,” he said in a message posted on Telegram.
Olha, who communicated with friends in Enerhodar on Thursday night and who, like others, did not want to use her full name out of concern for her safety, said preparations had been going on for weeks and that security had been tightened.
“Since yesterday, they do not allow men aged 18 to 35 to leave the city,” she said. “They want to conscript them to the Russian armed forces. And Ukrainians will have to fight against Ukrainians,” she said, stopping short as she broke into tears.
It was a concern expressed repeatedly by residents in occupied areas, as well as by Ukrainian officials: that one of the first consequences of annexation would be conscription of Ukrainians into the Russian military. That is already the case in parts of Luhansk and Donetsk occupied by Russia since 2014.
Andriy, 44, who has friends and relatives in Kherson, said he had spoken with friends who said it wasn’t possible to leave the city because of the referendum. “You know, those who are smart, they sit at home and don’t go anywhere,” he said.
Anna Lukinova and Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine.
Election officials will be bringing ballots to people’s homes and setting up makeshift polling stations near residential buildings.
Voting began Friday in Moscow-held regions of Ukraine on referendums to become part of Russia, Russian-backed officials there said.
The Kremlin-orchestrated referendums, which have been widely denounced by Ukraine and the West as shams without any legal force, are seen as a step toward annexing the territories by Russia.
The votes are being held in the Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.
The vote, which asks residents if they want their regions to be part of Russia, is certain to go Moscow’s way. That would give Russia the pretext to claim that attempts by Ukrainian forces to regain control are attacks on Russia itself, dramatically escalating the seven-month war.
Related StoryHigh-Level Russian Intelligence Officers Are Getting Fed Up With Putin
The referendums follow Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order of a partial mobilization, which could add about 300,000 Russian troops to the fight. The balloting will continue for five days through Tuesday.
As the votes were getting underway in the occupied regions, Russian social media sites were full of dramatic scenes of tearful families bidding farewell to men departing from military mobilization centers. In cities across the vast country, men hugged their weeping family members before departing as part of the draft. Russian anti-war activists, in the meantime, planned more protests against the mobilization.
Election officials will be bringing ballots to people’s homes and setting up makeshift polling stations near residential buildings during the first four days of the referendums, according to Russian-installed officials in the occupied regions, who cited safety reasons. Tuesday will be the only day when the voters will be invited to come to regular polls.
Polls also opened in Russia, where refugees from the occupied regions can cast their votes.
Denis Pushilin, separatist leader of Moscow-backed authorities in the Donetsk region, called the referendum on Friday “a historical milestone.”
Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, addressed the occupied regions Friday in an online statement, saying: “If you decide to become part of the Russian Federation — we will support you.”
Valentina Matviyenko, chair of Russia’s upper parliament house, said that residents of the occupied regions were voting for “life or death” at the referendums.
Related Story4 Ukrainian Separatist Regions Plan Votes To Join Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy only briefly mentioned the “sham referenda” in his nightly address in which he switched from speaking in Ukrainian to Russian to directly tell Russian citizens they are being “thrown to their deaths.”
“You are already accomplices in all these crimes, murders and torture of Ukrainians,” he said. “Because you were silent. Because you are silent. And now it’s time for you to choose. For men in Russia, this is a choice to die or live, to become a cripple or to preserve health. For women in Russia, the choice is to lose their husbands, sons, grandchildren forever, or still try to protect them from death, from war, from one person.”
The voting takes place against the backdrop of incessant fighting in Ukraine, with Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanging fire as both sides refuse to concede ground.
On Friday morning, pro-Russia officials in the Zaporizhzhia region reported a loud blast in the center of Melitopol, a city that Moscow captured early on in the war. Official Vladimir Rogov didn’t offer any details as to what caused the explosion and whether there was damage and casualties.
Moscow-backed authorities in the Donetsk region also accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the city of Donetsk, the region’s capital, and the nearby city of Yasynuvata.
Ukrainian officials, in turn, reported new rounds of Russian shelling in various parts of the country. Vitaliy Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine that borders the Kherson region, said explosions rang out in the city of Mykolaiv in the early hours of Friday.
Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, said the Russians unleashed a barrage of shelling on Nikopol, a city across from the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, on Friday morning.
The nuclear power station, which is also known as the Pivdennoukrainsk plant, is Ukraine’s second-largest after the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
A Russian missile struck close to a nuclear power plant Monday in southern Ukraine without damaging the three reactors but hit other industrial equipment in what Ukrainian authorities denounced as an act of “nuclear terrorism.”
The missile made impact within 328 yards of the reactors at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, blasting a crater 6 1/2 feet deep and 13 feet across, according to Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom.
The reactors were operating normally and no staff members were injured, the agency said. But the proximity of the strike renewed fears the nearly seven-month-long war in Ukraine might produce a radiation disaster.
The nuclear power station, which is also known as the Pivdennoukrainsk plant, is Ukraine’s second-largest after the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which has repeatedly come under fire. The two facilities’ reactors are of the same design.
Related StoryCities Near Ukrainian Nuclear Plant Shelled
Following recent battlefield setbacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened last week to step up attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. Throughout the war, Russia has targeted Ukraine’s electricity generation and transmission equipment, causing blackouts and endangering the safety systems of the country’s nuclear power plants.
The industrial complex that includes the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear plant sits along the Southern Bug River about 190 miles south of the capital, Kyiv. The attack caused the temporary shutdown of a nearby hydropower plant, shattered more than 100 windows at the complex and severed three power transmission lines, Ukrainian authorities said.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry released a black-and-white video showing two large fireballs erupting one after the other in the dark, followed by incandescent showers of sparks. A time stamp on the video read 19 minutes after midnight.
The ministry and Energoatom called the strike “nuclear terrorism.” The Russian Defense Ministry made no immediate comment. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Russian forces have occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power station, since the early days of the invasion. Shelling cut off its transmission lines, forcing operators to shut down its six reactors to avoid a radiation disaster. Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the strikes.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has stationed monitors at the plant, said a main transmission line was reconnected Friday, providing electricity that the Zaporizhzhia plant needs to cool its reactors.
But the mayor of Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia plant is located, reported more Russian shelling Monday in the city’s industrial zone.
While warning Friday of possible ramped-up strikes, Putin claimed his forces had so far acted with restraint in responding to Ukrainian attempts to hit Russian facilities.
Related StoryU.N. Agency Calls For Safety Zone Around Ukraine Nuclear Plant
“If the situation develops this way, our response will be more serious,” Putin said.
“Just recently, the Russian armed forces have delivered a couple of impactful strikes,” he said, referring to attacks last week. “Let’s consider those as warning strikes.”
As well as infrastructure, Russian forces are pounding other sites. The latest shelling killed at least eight civilians and wounded 22, Ukraine’s presidential office said Monday.
The governor of the northeastern Kharkiv region, now largely back in Ukrainian hands, said Russian shelling killed four medical workers trying to evacuate patients from a psychiatric hospital, and wounded two patients.
The mayor of the Russian-occupied eastern city of Donetsk said shelling killed 13 civilians there.
Patricia Lewis, the international security research director at the Chatham House think tank in London, said the previous attacks at the Zaporizhzhia plant and Monday’s strike indicated that Russian military planners were attempting to knock Ukrainian nuclear plants offline before winter by targeting power supplies that keep them functioning safely.
“It’s a very, very dangerous and illegal act to be targeting a nuclear station,” Lewis said in an interview. “Only the generals will know the intent, but there’s clearly a pattern.”
“What they seem to be doing each time is to try to cut off the power to the reactor,” she said. “It’s a very clumsy way to do it, because how accurate are these missiles?”
Power is needed to run pumps that circulate cooling water to the reactors, preventing overheating and — in a worst-case scenario — a radiation-spewing nuclear fuel meltdown.
Other recent Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure targeted power plants in the north and a dam in the south. They came in response to a sweeping Ukrainian counterattack in the country’s east that reclaimed Russia-occupied territory in the Kharkiv region and broke what had largely become a stalemate in the war.
The Ukrainian successes — Russia’s biggest defeat since its forces were repelled from around Kyiv in the invasion’s opening stage — have fueled rare public criticism in Russia and added to the military and diplomatic pressure on Putin.
The Kremlin’s nationalist critics have questioned why Moscow failed to plunge Ukraine into darkness by hitting all of its major nuclear power plants.
At a summit in Uzbekistan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the “liberation” of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region remains the main military goal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed Friday to press his attack on Ukraine despite its latest counteroffensive and warned that Moscow could ramp up its strikes if Ukrainian forces target power plants and other infrastructure in Russia.
Speaking to reporters Friday after attending a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan, Putin said the “liberation” of Ukraine’s entire eastern Donbas region remained Russia’s main military goal and that he sees no need to revise it.
“We aren’t in a rush,” the Russian leader said, adding that Russia has only deployed volunteer soldiers to fight in Ukraine.
Related StoryUkraine’s Fighters Share What They’ve Seen In Newly Retaken Territory
Russia was forced to pull back its forces from large swaths of northeastern Ukraine last week after a swift Ukrainian counteroffensive. Ukraine’s move to reclaim control of several Russian-occupied cities and villages marked the largest military setback for Moscow since its forces had to retreat from areas near the capital early in the war.
Asked about the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Putin replied: “Let’s see how it develops and how it ends.”
He alleged that Ukraine has attempted to launch attacks “near our nuclear facilities, nuclear power plants” in Russia and vowed to do “everything to prevent any negative turn of events.”
“We will retaliate if they fail to understand that such methods are unacceptable, they don’t differ from terrorism,” Putin said.
Putin also sought Friday to assuage India’s concern about the conflict in Ukraine, telling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Moscow wants to see a quick end to the fighting and alleging Ukrainian officials won’t negotiate.
“I know your stand on the conflict in Ukraine and the concerns that you have repeatedly voiced,” the Russian leader told Modi. “We will do all we can to end that as quickly as possible. Regrettably, the other side, the leadership of Ukraine, has rejected the negotiations process and stated that it wants to achieve its goals by military means, on the battlefield.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said it is Russia that allegedly doesn’t want to negotiate in earnest. He also has insisted on the withdrawal of Russian troops from occupied areas of Ukraine as a precondition for talks.
Putin’s remarks during the talks with Modi echoed similar comments he made during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping the previous day.
China and India have refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine while increasing their purchases of Russian oil and gas, helping Moscow offset the financial restrictions imposed by the U.S. and its allies.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was formed by Russia and China as a counterweight to U.S. influence. The group also includes India, Pakistan and four ex-Soviet Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran is on track to receive full membership.
On Thursday, Putin held a one-on-one meeting with Xi and thanked the Chinese leader for his government’s “balanced position” on the Ukraine war, while adding that he was ready to discuss unspecified China’s “concerns” about Ukraine.
Xi, in a statement released by his government, expressed support for Russia’s “core interests” but also interest in working together to “inject stability” into world affairs.
A Russian all-terrain armoured vehicle is parked outside the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant during the visit of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expert mission in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict outside Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, September 1, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko/
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Second resolution on Ukraine since war started
First was in March before Russia seized power plant
Twenty-six of 35 board members backed the text
Russia and China only countries to oppose it
VIENNA, Sept 15 (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog’s 35-nation Board of Governors on Thursday passed a resolution demanding that Russia end its occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
The resolution is the second on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board, and their content is very similar, though the first in March preceded Russian forces taking control of Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant. read more
Both resolutions were proposed by Canada and Poland on behalf of Ukraine, which is not on the board, the IAEA’s top policy-making body that meets more than once a year.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
The text, which says the board calls on Russia to “immediately cease all actions against, and at, the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and any other nuclear facility in Ukraine”, was passed with 26 votes in favour, two against and seven abstentions, diplomats at the closed-door meeting said. read more
The text was later posted on the IAEA’s website.
Russia and China were the countries that voted against while Egypt, South Africa, Senegal, Burundi, Vietnam, India and Pakistan abstained, the diplomats said.
The board “deplores the Russian Federation’s persistent violent actions against nuclear facilities in Ukraine, including forcefully seizing of control of nuclear facilities,” the resolution’s text reads.
Russia seized radioactive waste facilities in Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, at the start of the war but later withdrew.
Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly accused each other of shelling the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine.
Russia’s mission to the IAEA called the text anti-Russian and said “the Achilles’ heel of this resolution” was that it said nothing about the “systematic shelling” of the plant.
“The reason is simple – this shelling is carried out by Ukraine, which is supported and shielded by Western countries in every possible way,” it said in a statement.
The resolution adds that Russia’s occupation of the plant significantly increases the risk of a nuclear accident. Ukrainian staff continue to operate the plant in conditions that the IAEA has described as endangering the site’s safety.
“This Board took up the issue in March and adopted a resolution that deplored Russia’s violent actions and called upon Russia to immediately cease all actions against and at nuclear facilities in Ukraine and return control of them to the competent Ukrainian authorities,” the U.S. statement to the board said.
“The very next day, Russia spurned that call by seizing the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. Russia is treating Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure as a military prize, seeking to deprive Ukraine of control over its own energy resources and to use the plant as a base for military action against Ukraine,” it added.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.