Ukraine said it survived a months-long winter onslaught of Russian strikes on water and energy infrastructure, as it marked the first day of spring on Wednesday.
But Kiev was under intense pressure in eastern Ukraine, while Moscow said it shot down a “massive” barrage of Ukrainian drones launched on the Crimean peninsula, annexed by the Kremlin in 2014.
Since October, Russia bombarded key facilities in Ukraine with missiles and drones, disrupting water, heat and electricity supplies for millions of people.
President Volodymyr Zelensky praised Ukrainians for surviving a winter marked by systematic Russian strikes on energy facilities, which plunged millions into darkness and cold.
“We overcame this winter. It was a very difficult period, and every Ukrainian experienced this difficulty, but still we were able to provide Ukraine with electricity and heating,” Zelensky said in his daily address. .
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hailed the first day of spring as another “major defeat” for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
“We survived the toughest winter in our history. It was cold and dark, but we were unbreakable,” Kuleba said in a statement.
Aid organizations had warned at the start of the winter that the targeted campaign would force a new wave of migration to Europe and that Ukraine’s priority would be “survival” during the months of freezing temperatures.
The Kremlin said kyiv was responsible for civilian suffering resulting from the massive blackouts because it refused to capitulate to Moscow’s war demands.
“Choke Your Missiles”
But the grid has stabilized and Ukrainian energy supplier Ukrenergo said on Wednesday there had been “no power shortage” for more than two weeks.
“Engineers are also continuing repairs to all electrical system facilities that were previously damaged by Russian missile and drone attacks,” he said.
The war in Ukraine has seen Europe question its deep dependence on Russian oil and gas amid waves of sanctions aimed at stemming Moscow’s ability to fund its military from energy revenues.
“The EU also won, and contrary to the laughter of Moscow, it did not freeze without Russian gas. A word of advice to Russia: choke on your gas and choke on your missiles,” Kuleba added in the statement.
The foreign minister’s comments came as fighting appears to be reaching a precarious moment for Kyiv, with a missile hitting the eastern Ukrainian town of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday night – an area regularly targeted by Russian strikes .
Two people died in the attack, according to Anatoliy Kurtev, secretary of the Zaporizhzhia city council, who added on his Telegram channel that there were still civilians trapped under the rubble of the building.
Further east near Bakhmut – the site of the longest and bloodiest battle in Russian invasion — AFP journalists saw Ukrainian forces closing roads to the besieged mining town, raising the specter of a possible Ukrainian withdrawal.
But Sergiy Cherevaty, a spokesman for Ukrainian forces deployed in the east of the country, said “no such decision has been taken so far”.
“Violent battles are underway for our Bakhmut,” said the head of the city’s military administration, Oleksiy Reva.
The town, which once had a population of around 70,000, has seen a gradual exodus and only 4,500 people remain, Reva said.
Zelensky said on Tuesday that the fighting around Bakhmut was “escalating”.
“Russia does not count people at all, constantly sending them to attack our positions,” he added.
“Can not you help”
Elsewhere in the Donetsk region, the cost of the fighting was clear at a field hospital where AFP journalists saw wounded Ukrainian soldiers being treated.
“You remember extraordinary cases, where people have life-threatening injuries. Partially severed heads, torn or severed main vessels, where you cannot help the patient. That’s what you remember,” said Igor , a 28-year-old anesthesiologist.
Ukraine’s presidency said Wednesday that Russian attacks in the Donetsk region left three civilians dead and four others injured.
Shelling in the southern region of Kherson injured a one-year-old child and his mother, according to local authorities.
The Russian Defense Ministry’s announcement that it had shot down or disabled 10 Ukrainian drones targeting Crimea came a day after Russian officials said they had shot down three more in the country’s southern regions and near from Moscow.
“An attempt by the Kiev regime to carry out a massive drone attack on facilities on the Crimean peninsula has been foiled,” the defense ministry said.
Ten drones were either “shot down” or “disabled”, it said in the statement.
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said earlier on Wednesday that kyiv was not responsible for the attacks in Russia.
“Ukraine does not strike Russian territory. Ukraine is waging a defensive war to disoccupy all its territories,” he wrote on social media.