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Ukraine war: Fresh strikes, Russia 'a state sponsor of terror', and UK sends first helicopter

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP, Reuters
The Ukrainian army fires a captured Russian T-80 tank in Donetsk region.
The Ukrainian army fires a captured Russian T-80 tank in Donetsk region.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/LIBKOS

1. Power outages in Lviv and Moldova amid fresh missile strikes

Ukraine says that Russia once again pounded its energy infrastructure on Wednesday with multiple missile strikes.

A number of regions, including the capital Kyiv, reported power outages after hearing explosions and anti-aircraft air sirens.

The Kyiv city administration said that three people were dead and six wounded in the capital after a Russian strike hit a two-story building.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that “one of the capital’s infrastructure facilities has been hit” and that water supplies were knocked out in all of Kyiv.

There were also power outages in the northern city of Kharkiv, the western city of Lviv, and in the southern Odesa region, while three Ukrainian nuclear power plants were "disconnected" from the electricity grid.

In Moldova, Infrastructure Minister Andrei Spinu also said that “we have massive power outages across the country”.

Russia has repeatedly fired on Ukraine's infrastructure in recent weeks, leaving up to 10 million people without electricity.

Moscow says strikes on Ukraine's energy infrastructure are a consequence of Kyiv being unwilling to negotiate.

2. Baby killed in Russian strike on maternity hospital, says Ukraine

A newborn baby was killed after an overnight rocket attack struck a hospital maternity ward in southern Ukraine, authorities said.

The strike -- which Kyiv has blamed on Russia -- hit the two-story building in the town of Vilniansk, near Zaporizhzhia. Russia has always denied targeting civilians.

The baby’s mother and a doctor were reportedly pulled alive from the rubble.

"At night, Russian monsters launched huge rockets at the small maternity ward of the hospital in Vilniansk," regional governor Oleksandr Starukh wrote on Telegram.

"Grief overwhelms our hearts — a baby was killed who had just seen the light of day. Rescuers are working at the site."

The State Emergency Service initially said that the baby, new mother, and doctor were the only people in the hospital ward at the time.

Zaporizhzhia region military administration via AP
Ukrainian firefighters work at the damaged hospital maternity ward in Vilniansk.Zaporizhzhia region military administration via AP

Zaporizhzhia is one of four Ukrainian regions that Russia illegally annexed in September after internationally condemned sham referendums.

"The terrorist state continues to wage war on civilians," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Telegram, adding that Russia would be held accountable for the strike on Vilniansk.

"The enemy has once again decided to try to accomplish through terror and murder what it has not been able to accomplish in nine months".

In the northeastern region of Kharkiv, another Russian rocket on Wednesday reportedly killed two people. Regional governor Oleg Synegoubov said the victims were a 55-year-old woman and a 68-year-old man.

One person was hospitalised and another received first aid at the scene, he said, adding that the bombing hit a residential building and a hospital.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has so far recorded more than 700 attacks on Ukrainian health facilities since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

3. Ukraine promises free shelter to citizens ahead of harsh winter

Ukraine has promised to provide free shelter to evacuating citizens ahead of a harsh winter and amid relentless Russian strikes.

Special "invincibility centres" will be set up across the country to provide electricity, water, internet, and a pharmacy, President Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Tuesday.

The Ukrainian government has begun relocating citizens from recently recaptured cities to areas where heating and security problems are less acute.

The head of national grid operator Ukrenergo has described the damage to Ukraine's infrastructure was "colossal".

"If massive Russian strikes happen again and its clear power will not be restored for hours, the 'invincibility centres' will go into action with all key services," Zelenskyy said.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said this week that around 8,500 power generator sets are being imported to Ukraine each day.

Authorities have warned of power cuts that could affect millions of people until the end of March and have urged citizens to stock up on "warm clothes and blankets".

Temperatures commonly stay below freezing in Ukraine in the winter, and snow has already fallen in many areas, including Kyiv.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis linked the suffering of Ukrainians to the 1930s famine "artificially caused" by Soviet leader Josef Stalin, where more than 3 million people were killed.

4. European Parliament declares Russia a 'state sponsor' of terror

The European Parliament has voted to declare Russia a "state sponsor of terrorism" over its "illegal, unprovoked, and unjustified war of aggression" in Ukraine.

MEPs stated that Moscow has inflicted "brutal and inhumane" upon Ukraine and its citizens.

"The deliberate attacks and atrocities carried out by the Russian Federation against the civilian population of Ukraine, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and other serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law amount to acts of terror against the Ukrainian population and constitute war crimes," MEPs the non-binding resolution read.

A total of 494 lawmakers voted in favour of the symbolic text, with 58 against and 44 abstentions.

The EU's 27 member states have now been urged to develop a new legal framework to designate an entire country as a state sponsor of terror.

Currently, the bloc's legislation only allows the EU to blacklist specific individuals and organisations.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova slammed the European Parliament's decision as "idiotic".

Read the full story here.

CARL COURT / AFP, FILE
UK Sea-King helicopters fly past during D-Day commemorations in Portsmouth.CARL COURT / AFP, FILE

5. UK sends its first helicopter to Ukraine since Russia's invasion

The United Kingdom has shipped its first helicopter to Ukraine since Russia launched the invasion.

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said London planned to send two more aircraft in the coming months, as well as an additional 10,000 rounds of artillery.

"Our support for Ukraine is unwavering. These additional artillery rounds will help Ukraine to secure the land it has reclaimed from Russia in recent weeks," Wallace said in a ministry statement.

"The first shipment of Sea King helicopters is coming to Ukraine to provide critical search and rescue capabilities," he added.

The UK has been one of Kyiv's strongest donors of military aid, sending air defence systems and drones, but the delivery of a Sea King helicopter is the first time that the UK has sent manned aircraft to Ukraine.

According to the statement, the British Army has trained 10 Ukrainian army teams and engineers to operate the helicopters.

The announcement comes after UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Kyiv on Saturday and announced €57.4 million in military aid and €18.3 million in humanitarian aid.

The military aid is said to include "125 anti-aircraft guns and technology" to counter drones that were supplied to Russia by Iran.

The ministry also claimed that Russia has nearly exhausted its current stock of Iran-made weapons and will seek resupply.

6. Moldova promises to pay for Russian gas blocked in Ukraine

Moldova's government has stated that it will pay for natural gas that has been supplied by Russia but is allegedly being blocked in Ukraine.

Gazprom has accused Kyiv of siphoning off 52.5 million cubic metres of gas destined for Moldova and threatened to start cutting deliveries from Monday.

The Russian state energy giant has already cut its gas exports to Chisinau by half.

"To be clear, all gas delivered to Moldova ends up in our country," Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu said on Wednesday.

"The volumes of gas Gazprom refers to that remain in Ukraine are our reserves and they are stored in warehouses in Ukraine," he added.

"Our country has always paid for these quantities and will continue to pay for them in full."

European countries regularly accuse Moscow of energy blackmail over their support for Ukraine.

“This is not the first time that Russia resorts to using gas as a tool of political pressure," said Olha Belkova of the Gas Transmission System Operator of Ukraine.

"This is a gross manipulation of facts in order to justify the decision to further limit the volume of gas supplies to European countries."

Heading into winter when natural gas is needed to heat homes as well as generate electricity and power factories, any reductions in supplies could mean higher prices, fueling inflation.

Natural gas prices have fallen since August peaks and European nations have been able to fill their storage capacity for winter, but the crunch could worsen if the weather turns out to be colder than normal.

Moldova relied heavily on Russian energy before the war and its Soviet-era energy systems remain interconnected with Ukraine.

A recent international aid conference in Paris raised more than €100 million euros to support Moldova through its energy crisis. Earlier this month, the European Union also pledged the country €250 million euros in aid.

7. US to send Ukraine €385 million in weapons and ammunition

The US is sending another $400 million (€385 million) in weapons, ammunition, and generators to Ukraine, the White House announced on Wednesday.

Washington said it would source the supplies from its own stockpiles in order to get the support to Kyiv as fast as possible.

Including the latest aid, the US has now committed more than $19 billion (€18.3 billion) in weapons and other equipment to Ukraine since February.

The move comes as Russia continues to target Ukraine’s energy sources ahead of the winter.

But the continued push of weapons to Kyiv is raising questions about how long the US and Western allies can continue to sustain the fight without impacting their own military readiness.

Many European nations have already stated that they have sent Ukraine all the excess they can afford.

The US and 45 partner nations recently discussed Ukraine’s top priorities, including more air defense systems and long-range weapons, at a meeting in Brussels.

The flow of weapons comes as the Biden administration seeks to pass an additional $37 billion (€35.7 billion) in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine before Republicans take over control of the House in January.