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UN warns about effects of Russia damaging key infrastructure in Ukraine

Following the massive gains made over the past week by the Ukrainians in their eastern counteroffensive, Russia has begun deliberately targeting key power and heating infrastructure in and around Kharkiv. The United Nations’ International Organisation of Migration (IOM) warned that this will make the living conditions for the civilian population especially difficult this winter.

“Any attempt to damage those facilities will have a terrible impact on the capacity to heat those cities,” Antonio Vitorino, director general of the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) told reporters in Kyiv on Tuesday. The day before, Vitorino had met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“We are making all efforts to assist the population in preparing for the winter but we need electricity, and that depends on state services to [restore] a working electricity system,” said Vitorino.

The IOM estimates, that the worst affected by blackouts and disruption in providing heating would be the 6.9 million internally displaced people. Vitorino said that his agency’s priority this winter in Ukraine is to ensure the access of internally displaced people to heating, warm clothes, and food.

Further to the amount of internally displaced people, as many as eight million people, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine in the past six months. “It was the fastest growing displacement crisis in the last 20 years because we reached the peak of eight million in a couple of months,” said Vitorino. An “overwhelming majority” of those forced to flee Ukraine want to return to their country once the security situation improves, according to an UN-conducted survey.

Kyiv also is accusing Moscow of forcibly deporting a large number of Ukrainian citizens from the areas overrun by the invaders into Russia, although this is denied by the Kremlin. Vitorino said he could not provide any comment on their situation since Moscow is not granting UN agencies any access to the deportees.

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