Authorities in Ukraine have begun evacuating civilians from recently liberated sections of the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions for fear that a lack of heat, electricity and water caused by Russian shelling will make winter living conditions intolerable.
They urged residents of the two southern regions, which have been bombarded by Russian forces for months, to relocate to safer areas in the country's center and west.
Iryna Vereshchuk, the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, stated on Monday that the government would provide transportation, housing, and medical care for them, with priority given to pregnant women, the sick, and the elderly.
Last month, Vereshchuk urged Ukrainians living abroad not to return for the winter to conserve energy.
Other officials have suggested that residents of Kyiv and other cities who can afford to leave the country for a few months should do so to conserve energy for hospitals and other essential facilities.
Dreadful winter weather concerns WHO
Monday, the WHO issued a chilling warning about the human impact of Ukraine's energy crisis.
Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO's regional director for Europe, stated that millions of Ukrainians will face life-threatening conditions this winter.
As a result of attacks on the health and energy infrastructure, hundreds of hospitals and healthcare facilities are no longer fully operational due to a lack of fuel, water, and electricity.
People attempting to warm themselves by burning charcoal or wood, or by using diesel generators and electric heaters, pose health risks such as respiratory and cardiovascular issues, he warned.
The evacuations are occurring more than a week after Ukraine retook the city of Kherson, located on the western bank of the Dnieper River, and surrounding areas in a significant military victory.
Since then, residents and authorities alike have realized how much power and other infrastructure the Russians damaged or destroyed before their retreat.
Ukraine is notorious for its harsh winters, and snow has already blanketed Kyiv and the rest of the country.
More than fifty percent of Ukraine's energy facilities were damaged by Russian attacks.
Russian forces are strengthening their defensive lines along the eastern bank of the Dnieper River out of concern that Ukrainian forces will advance further into the region.
During the weeks preceding the successful Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russian-installed authorities relocated tens of thousands of Kherson city residents to Russian-held territory.
On Monday, Russian-installed authorities urged other residents to evacuate an area on the eastern bank of the river that is now under Moscow's control, citing intense fighting in the Kakhovskiy district of Kherson.
For weeks, Russia has bombarded Ukraine's power grid and other infrastructure from the air, causing widespread blackouts and leaving millions of Ukrainians without electricity, heat, and water.
According to Volodymyr Kudrytsky, head of Ukraine's state grid operator Ukrenergo, blackouts of four hours or longer were scheduled for 15 of the country's 27 regions on Monday.
Ukrenergo expects additional outages Tuesday. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine claims that Russian missile strikes have damaged more than fifty percent of the country's energy infrastructure.
Monday, Zelenskyy reiterated his calls for NATO nations and other allies to recognize Russia as a terrorist state, stating that Russia's shelling of energy facilities was "equivalent to the use of a mass destruction weapon."
Additionally, Zelenskyy pressed for stricter sanctions against Russia and increased air defense aid.
"The terrorist state must realize it has no chance," he said in a video address to the 68th NATO Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Madrid, after which he announced that the body had approved the terrorist designation.