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Ukraine says Russia has recently taken out a third of its power stations

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian forces have destroyed a third of Ukraine's power stations in the last two weeks.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Many cities and villages are without power, triggering fears of a humanitarian crisis as the country gets colder. Zelenskyy says Russia has launched a series of what he calls terrorist strikes because they're losing in the east and south.

FADEL: Here with more is NPR's Franco Ordoñez. He's been reporting near the front lines in eastern Ukraine. Good morning, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So, Franco, Russia has clearly been targeting infrastructure and energy stations in recent weeks. What's the impact been?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, it's been extensive. Zelenskyy and other leaders are calling on people to conserve electricity. The problem is not necessarily having the energy but being able to distribute it. NPR spoke to the Energy Ministry today, and an adviser explained that the Russians are targeting substations, which there are more of around the country, and they're also harder to protect. Ursula von der Leyen - she's the president of the European Commission. She said earlier today - calling the attacks a war crime.

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URSULA VON DER LEYEN: Targeted attacks on civilian infrastructure with a clear aim to cut off men, women, children of water, electricity and heating with the winter coming - these are acts of pure terror.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, Leila, it's already starting to get cold here. The World Health Organization is warning of a potential humanitarian crisis. And the WHO officials note that 800,000 Ukrainian homes have already been destroyed and/or damaged.

FADEL: Now, Ukrainian officials announced yesterday that a fifth person died from Monday's attacks in Kyiv that were carried out with Iranian drones. What has the government said about Iran's involvement?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, they're called kamikaze drones. Iran has supplied hundreds of them to the Russians, and it's really created a significant geopolitical problem. Ukraine is threatening to cut ties with Tehran. Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Iran's actions were despicable, and he said they won't be tolerated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DMYTRO KULEBA: (Non-English language spoken).

ORDOÑEZ: He's saying given the amount of destruction and deaths from the Iranian drones, as well as the possible continuation of Iran's supply of weapons, that he's submitting a proposal to cut off diplomatic ties with Iran. And he said also that Iran beared (ph) full responsibility for the damage to the relationship. But he did add that if Iran stopped supplying these drones, they could discuss remaining cooperation. And just as you said earlier, President Zelenskyy has called these attacks a sign of desperation and that Russia is basically lashing out because it's struggling in the south and also in the east.

FADEL: So what are some of the signs that Russia's struggling in the south and the east?

ORDOÑEZ: Russian officials have called for an evacuation of Kherson in the south. Russia's top commander acknowledged the advances made by Ukrainians. He told Russian TV that things were getting tense. TASS, state-run media, says it would take six days to relocate about 50 to 60,000 people. It's actually a rare admission of the problems they have. Right now, Kherson is the only regional capital Russia controls on the Western Bank of the Dnieper River, which divides the country. Ukraine has been trying to isolate Russian forces there by blowing up bridges and cutting off their access to supplies. It would be a huge victory for Ukraine if it could take back control of Kherson.

FADEL: NPR's Franco Ordoñez, thanks.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.