Ukraine implores UN to punish Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is demanding the United Nations punish Russian air strikes on civilian infrastructure after a missile barrage caused the worst nationwide power outages yet, plunging cities into freezing darkness.

With millions of Ukrainians enduring below-zero temperatures at home, authorities were working hard on Thursday to get the lights and heat back on. Russia's latest missile barrage killed 10 people, shut down Ukraine's nuclear power plants and knocked out most power nationwide.

By Thursday morning, regional authorities in Kyiv said power had been restored to three-quarters of the capital and water was working again in some areas. Transport was back up and running in the capital, with buses replacing electric trams.

Authorities hoped to restart the three nuclear power plants in Ukrainian-held territory by the end of the day.

Since early October, Russia has launched huge barrages of air strikes about once a week at energy targets across Ukraine, each time firing hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of missiles to knock out Ukraine's power grid.

Moscow acknowledges attacking basic infrastructure, saying its aim is to reduce Ukraine's ability to fight and push it to negotiate. Kyiv says such attacks are clearly intended to harm civilians, making them a war crime.

"Today is just one day, but we have received 70 missiles. That's the Russian formula of terror. This is all against our energy infrastructure," Zelenskiy said overnight via video link to the UN Security Council chamber.

"Hospitals, schools, transport, residential districts all suffered," he said, calling on the United Nations to act to halt the attacks.

There was no prospect of action from the Security Council, where Russia wields a veto. Moscow's UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, said it was against council rules for Zelenskiy to appear via video, and rejected what he called "reckless threats and ultimatums" by Ukraine and its supporters in the West.

In an overnight address to Ukrainians, Zelenskiy said: "We'll renew everything and get through all of this because we are an unbreakable people."

Ukraine says it is shooting down most of the missiles and restoring most power within a day, but that each such assault causes worse damage and greater hardship for civilians.

Winter has arrived abruptly in Ukraine and temperatures were well below freezing in the capital, a city of three million. US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russian President Vladimir Putin was "clearly weaponising winter to inflict immense suffering on the Ukrainian people".

The Russian president "will try to freeze the country into submission", she said.

Russia's Nebenzya said damage to Ukraine's infrastructure was caused by missiles fired by Ukrainian air defence systems that crashed into civilian areas, and called on the West to stop providing Kyiv with air defence missiles.

Ukrainian authorities said three apartment blocks were hit on Wednesday, killing 10 people.

The blackouts also spread to neighbouring Moldova, where authorities said most power was back on by Thursday.

Ukraine has inflicted a series of crushing defeats on Russian forces since September, recovering parts of the east and south. Moscow has responded by declaring the annexation of land it occupies and calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists.

The war's first winter will test Ukraine's campaign to recapture territory and show whether Russia's commanders can halt Kyiv's momentum.

Moscow faces the difficult task of keeping an invasion force supplied for its first long winter in Ukraine. But having retreated, Russia now has a far shorter line to defend to hold on to its remaining seized lands, with more than a third of the front blocked off by the Dnipro River.

Russia has been pressing an offensive of its own along a stretch of front line west of the city of Donetsk, held by Moscow's proxies since 2014. Ukraine says it has killed thousands of Russian soldiers there while yielding little ground, describing the Russians as hurled into battle with little equipment or training.