Energy issues centre stage in Ukraine, EU

·3-min read

European leaders have sought to ease the impact of high energy prices across the continent, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned of a difficult winter, even as he reported progress in a counter-offensive against Russian troops.

Zelenskiy thanked his forces in his nightly address on Sunday for taking two settlements in the south and a third in the east, as well as additional territory in the east, saying he had received "good reports" from his military commanders and head of intelligence.

Ukraine began a counter-offensive last week targeting the south, particularly the Kherson region, which Russia seized early in the conflict.

Zelenskiy's remarks came a day after he warned Europeans that Russia was preparing "a decisive energy blow" during the cold months ahead.

Moscow has cited Western sanctions and technical issues for the energy disruptions. European countries who have backed Kyiv with diplomatic and military support have accused Russia of weaponising energy supplies.

Some analysts say the shortages and a surge in living costs as winter approaches risk sapping Western support for Kyiv as governments try to deal with disgruntled populations.

Last week Moscow said it would keep the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, its main gas channel to Germany, closed and G7 countries announced a planned price cap on Russian oil exports.

The Kremlin said it would stop selling oil to any countries that implemented the cap.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday said his government had been planning for a total halt in gas deliveries in December, promising measures to lower prices and tie social benefits to inflation.

"Russia is no longer a reliable energy partner," Scholz told a news conference in Berlin.

In response, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Germany of being an enemy of Russia. "In other words, it has declared a hybrid war on Russia," he said.

On Sunday, Finland and Sweden announced plans to offer billions of dollars to power companies to avert the threat of insolvency amid the crisis.

Russian authorities said the situation around the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine was calm on Sunday, after United Natioms inspectors said on Saturday it had again lost external power.

The last remaining main external power line was cut off although a reserve line continued supplying electricity to the grid, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

Only one of its six reactors remained in operation, it said.

Russian troops seized the plant shortly after President Vladimir Putin sent his army over the border on February 24. It has become a focal point of the conflict. Each side has blamed the other for shelling that has raised fears of a nuclear disaster.

Russia has resisted international calls to demilitarise the area.

On other battlefronts, Ukrainian Telegram channels reported explosions at the Antonivsky bridge near the southern city of Kherson, which is occupied by Russian forces.

The bridge has been severely damaged by Ukrainian missiles over the past weeks, but Russian troops were trying to repair it or to set up a pontoon crossing or barges to maintain supplies to Russian units on the right bank of the Dnipro River.