The occupied city of Kherson has lost power for the first time since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, as Kyiv’s mayor told residents to consider leaving the capital in the event of a complete blackout.
In a statement on Telegram, the Russian-controlled Kherson administration said electricity and water supplies were down after a “terrorist attack” damaged three power lines on the Berislav-Kakhovka highway in an occupied part of the region.
Yuriy Sobolevskyi, deputy head of Kherson regional council, said about 10 settlements in the region were affected, as well as the main city.
Russian officials have said Ukraine is preparing to attempt a second offensive to retake more of the Kherson region. Recapturing it would have immense symbolic and logistical value for Ukraine as Russia wants the area to secure a water supply to Crimea, as well as a land bridge to Russia.
The head of the regional administration, Yaroslav Yanushevych, blamed Russia for the power outages. He said that in the city of Beryslav in the region, about 1.5km (one mile) of electric power lines had been destroyed, cutting off power entirely because the “damage is quite extensive”.
Energy specialists were working to “quickly” resolve the issue, the Russian-backed authorities said, as they called on people to “remain calm”. Kherson’s Moscow-appointed governor, Vladimir Saldo, said authorities hoped to have power back by the end of Monday.
News of the outage followed claims on Sunday in Russian state media that the Kakhovka dam in the region of Kherson was damaged by a Ukrainian strike using Himars rockets.
In recent weeks Ukraine has warned that Moscow’s forces intended to blow up the strategic facility to cause flooding. The hydroelectric dam was captured by Moscow’s forces at the start of their offensive.
It came as Kyiv’s mayor and former boxing champion, Vitali Klitschko, said he could not rule out the prospect of a complete blackout for the capital as Russia continued its campaign of strikes on energy infrastructure.
Speaking to Ukraine’s United News, a centralised news programme broadcast across all channels, Klitschko told people to prepare by buying power banks and warm clothes. In case of an all-out blackout, he said Kyiv’s residents should try to stay with relatives outside the capital.
“If you have extended family or friends outside Kyiv, where there is autonomous water supply, an oven, heating, please keep in mind the possibility of staying there for a certain amount of time,” he said.
However, Klitschko urged people in Kyiv not to be “pessimistic”, saying he was only advising people to prepare for different scenarios. “We will do everything that depends on us so that such a scenario does not happen.”
As of Sunday evening, stabilisation blackouts continue in Kyiv and six regions, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said. Describing the situation as “really difficult” he said more than 4.5m Ukrainians – mostly in Kyiv and the surrounding region – were without electricity.
Russian strikes over the past month have destroyed around a third of Ukraine’s power stations and the government has urged Ukrainians to conserve electricity as much as possible.
“We are aware of the fact that the terrorist state is concentrating forces and means for a possible repetition of massive attacks on our infrastructure, primarily energy,” Zelenskiy said in his latest Sunday evening address, referring to Russia.
Sergei Kovalenko, CEO of Yasno, a major supplier of energy to the capital, said Ukraine faced a 32% deficit in projected power supply on Monday. “This is a lot, and it’s force majeure,” he said.
Ukraine’s authorities have issued scheduled blackouts across the country in order to stabilise the grid, and 17 EU countries have sent 500 power generators to Ukraine to help ease the energy crisis.
“Probably, there will be no light in Beryslav until the city is completely de-occupied,” he said in a Telegram update on Sunday night. “It is impossible to promptly repair the lines – there is a lack of specialists, equipment, and the Russian invaders will not allow this to be done.”
Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report