Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Ukrainian troops on Thursday attacked the Russian position in the southern city of Kherson while fighting also intensified in the east of the country. The fighting came amid reports that Moscow-appointed authorities in Kherson have deserted the city, joined by tens of thousands of residents who have fled to other Russian-controlled areas.
Surrounding Cherson from the west, Ukrainian troops attacked Russia’s base on the west bank of the Dnieper River, which divides the region and the country.
Like the battles unfolded, Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to portray the conflict in Ukraine as part of the West’s effort to secure world domination.
At a conference of international policy experts, Putin accused the US and its allies of trying to dictate their terms to other nations in a “dangerous and bloody” game of domination.
Putin, who sent his troops to Ukraine on February 24, has pledged Western support to Ukraine as part of a broader effort by Washington and its allies to impose what they call a rules-based world order that only fuels chaos.
Meanwhile, Russia warned that Moscow could target Western commercial satellites used for military purposes in support of Ukraine, and a State Department spokeswoman accused the United States of engaging in a “thoughtless and insane” escalation.
Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova argued Washington should adopt an approach more like that of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Cold War superpowers stepped back from the brink of nuclear confrontation.
“The more the US is drawn to support the Kiev regime on the battlefield, the more it risks provoking a direct military confrontation between the largest nuclear powers with catastrophic consequences,” Zakharova said.
Ukraine has advanced an offensive to retake the Kherson region and its eponymous capital, which Russian forces captured in the first days of a war now in its ninth month.
More than 70,000 residents of the city of Kherson have been evacuated in recent days, said the Kremlin’s governor of the region, Vladimir Saldo, on Thursday.
Members of the Russian-backed regional administration also fled, Deputy Governor Kirill Stremousov said. Monuments to Russian heroes were moved along with the remains of Russian general Grigory Potemkin who founded Cherson in the 18th century. His remains were kept in the city’s St. Catherine’s Church.
In eastern Ukraine, Russian forces continued to bombard the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, slowly advancing towards the center.
The deputy head of Russia’s delegation to a UN arms control body, Konstantin Vorontsov, described the use of American and other Western commercial satellites for military purposes during the fighting as “extremely dangerous”.
“The quasi-civilian infrastructure could be a legitimate target for a retaliatory strike,” Vorontsov warned.
As they had been throughout the month, Russian forces carried out attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, raising concerns ahead of the winter.
A Russian drone attack hit a power plant near the capital Kyiv early Thursday, causing a fire, Kyiv regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said. He said the recent attacks had done “very serious damage”.
“Russians are using drones and missiles to destroy Ukraine’s energy system before winter and terrorize civilians,” Kuleba said in a televised address.
Kuleba announced new rolling blackouts and urged consumers to conserve electricity. He said authorities were still considering how to restore power.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said rolling blackouts would also be introduced in the neighboring Chernihiv, Cherkassy and Zhytomyr regions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian attacks had already destroyed 30% of the country’s energy infrastructure.
In a likely response to Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure, a power plant near Sevastopol, a port in Russia’s annexed Crimea region, was attacked. According to Mayor Mikhail Razvozhayev, the plant was slightly damaged in a drone attack. He said power was uninterrupted.
Crimea, a region slightly larger than Sicily, was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. During the fighting in Ukraine, she was subjected to drone strikes and explosions. In a major setback for Russia, on October 8 a powerful truck bomb blew up a section of a strategic bridge connecting Crimea to mainland Russia.
A senior Ukrainian military officer accused Russia of staging explosions at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and blamed Ukraine in a false flag attack.
General Oleksii Gromov, the chief of the Main Operations Department of the General Staff of Ukraine, pointed to Moscow’s repeated unsubstantiated claims that Ukraine was planning to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb as a possible signal that Moscow was planning explosions at the facility, the largest in Europe, plan nuclear power plant.
Russia took control of the Zaporizhia plant in the first days of the invasion. Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of attacking the plant, whose reactors were shut down after sustained shelling.
Gromov also accused Thursday that Russian forces may have staged explosions on residential buildings in the city of Kherson before withdrawing from the city “to cause critical damage to the infrastructure of the areas retaken from Ukraine.”
The war in Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis is likely to cause global demand for fossil fuels to peak or flatten, largely due to falling Russian exports, according to a report released Thursday by the Paris-based International Energy Agency .
“Today’s energy crisis is a shock of unprecedented breadth and complexity,” said the IEA when it released its annual report, the World Energy Outlook.
According to the report, this is forcing the world’s more advanced economies to accelerate structural shifts towards renewable energy sources.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine