Ukrainians who fled their war-torn country should not return this winter because Ukraine's energy system — damaged by a wave of Russian attacks — cannot cope, Ukraine's deputy prime minister said Tuesday.
"I ask you not to return. We have to survive the winter," Iryna Vereshchuk said on a live television broadcast.
A number of recent Russian strikes have targeted energy infrastructure, resulting in widespread power outages, according to Ukrainian officials.
"Unfortunately, the networks will not cope," Vereshchuk said. "You see what Russia is doing. Do not [come back]. If there is an opportunity to stay for the time being, spend the winter abroad."
Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky outlined the scale of the damage to Ukrainian power systems.
"Attacks by Russian cruise missiles and Iranian combat drones have destroyed more than a third of our energy infrastructure," Zelenskyy said. "Russian terror against our energy facilities is aimed at creating as many problems as possible with electricity and heat for Ukraine this fall and winter so that as many Ukrainians as possible move to European countries."
Over the weekend, the deputy head of the Ukrainian presidency, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said over a million Ukrainian households were left without power after multipleacross the country. The deputy mayor of Lviv, Serhiy Kiral, also told CBS News partner network BBC News that Russia's strategy was to bring the war beyond frontline areas by damaging critical infrastructure ahead of the winter.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, a senior Ukrainian official said Russian forces were preparing for the "heaviest of battles" in the occupied southern region of Kherson, after Russian-installed regional leadersthe area.
The region's main city is the largest urban area controlled by Russia in Ukraine, and Ukrainian forces have been making advances toward it in recent weeks.
An adviser to Zelenskyy, Oleksiy Arestovych, said there was no sign Russian forces were leaving the area, and Ukraine's intelligence chief said Russia was sending more troops to the region and preparing to defend it, BBC News reported.
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