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Russian strikes leave thousands in northern Ukraine without power and water

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian strikes overnight left over 100,000 households without power in northern Ukraine and cut off the water supply to a regional capital, Ukrainian authorities reported Saturday, while civilian casualties rose sharply in the country’s embattled east.

The northern Sumy region, which borders Russia, was plunged into darkness after Russian strikes late Friday damaged energy infrastructure, the Ukrainian Energy Ministry said. Hours later, the Ukrainian public broadcaster reported that Russian drones hit the provincial capital, also called Sumy, cutting off water by hitting power lines that feed its system of pumps.

Russian state agency RIA cited a local pro-Kremlin “underground” leader as saying that Moscow’s forces overnight hit a plant producing rocket ammunition in the city, which had a pre-war population of over 256,000. The report didn’t specify what weapon was used, and the claim could not be independently verified. Explosions rocked the city during an air raid warning early Saturday, according to Ukrainian media reports.

Russia is continually targeting Ukraine’s badly damaged energy infrastructure, resulting in hours of rolling blackouts across the country. Ukrainian officials have warned that the situation may worsen as winter approaches.

In the Donetsk region in the east, Russian shelling on Friday and overnight killed 11 civilians and wounded 43, local Gov. Vadym Filashkin reported on Saturday. Five people died in the town of Selydove southeast of Pokrovsk, the eastern city that has emerged as a front-line hotspot.

The Ukrainian General Staff on Saturday morning said that Ukrainian and Russian forces clashed 45 times near Pokrovsk over the previous day. Hours later, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced its troops had captured a village some 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of the city.

According to Filashkin, three more civilians died in Chasiv Yar, the strategically located town in Donetsk that has been reduced to rubble under a monthlong Russian assault.

Russian forces have for months tried to grind out gains in Ukraine’s industrial east, in an apparent attempt to lock its defenders into a war of attrition, after Kyiv’s forces thwarted a cross-border push further north that briefly threatened Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv.

A Ukrainian military spokesperson on Thursday told the AP that Ukrainian forces had retreated from a neighborhood on the outskirts of Chasiv Yar. The town’s elevated location gives it strategic importance, and military analysts say its fall would put nearby cities in jeopardy. It could also compromise critical Ukrainian supply routes and bring Russia closer to its stated aim of seizing the entire Donetsk region.

According to the Ukrainian General Staff, Russian forces on Friday and overnight launched six rocket strikes and 55 airstrikes across Ukraine, and used more than 70 “glide bombs” — retrofitted Soviet-era weapons that have wrought devastation in the country in recent weeks.

In Kyiv, Ukrainian service members gathered Saturday to pay last respects to a British combat medic who set up a charity delivering essential supplies to front-line fighters.

Peter Fouché died at the front line last Thursday as his unit clashed with Russian troops, according to a statement by Project Konstantin, a volunteer group that since 2022 has ferried drones, vehicles, uniforms and food to Ukrainian soldiers in the east. According to its website, it has also helped evacuate 219 Ukrainian soldiers from combat zones.

At the farewell ceremony, Ukrainian soldiers carried Fouché’s coffin through Kyiv’s landmark Independence Square, the site of mass protests in 2014 that forced out a pro-Russian president, towards a memorial for the country’s fallen defenders. Fouché’s comrades held back tears as they lined up to say goodbye. Mourners read prayers as they held up Ukrainian flags and military banners.

Fouché’s partner, wearing a traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt, knelt to embrace the coffin. Halyna Zhuk, who co-founded Project Konstantin and has a daughter with the medic, called him a “true hero.”

“Every time he went into battle, I would see him off with the words, ‘Thank you, my protector.’ And today, I can only repeat it: thank you, my protector,” she said.

Fouché, a native of west London who turned 49 this year, helped build a field hospital in Kyiv before he started Project Konstantin, according to the group’s website, and later enlisted in the Ukrainian army. At least five other Britons have been killed while volunteering in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

In Russia, two civilians were wounded after Ukrainian forces overnight shelled a border town in the southern Belgorod region, its Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov reported.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its troops overnight shot down a total of eight drones over the Kursk and Belgorod regions in the south.

In Krasnodar province next to Russia-annexed Crimea, local authorities reported damage caused during the night by falling drone debris. Debris sparked a fire at an oil depot, set fuel tanks ablaze in a separate location and damaged a cellphone tower, the reports said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

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Full coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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