Blackouts after Russian strikes deepen Ukraine's concerns before winter

KYIV, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Russian missile strikes on Ukraine's power network caused blackouts in many parts of the country on Monday, deepening fears of outages this winter and prompting Kyiv to halt electricity exports.

Attacks that killed at least 11 civilians and wounded 64 left four regions temporarily without electricity, and supplies were disrupted in several other areas, the State Emergency Service said.

Authorities in Kyiv asked civilians and businesses to limit energy use, and the energy ministry said it was halting electricity exports to the European grid after the biggest attack on the energy system since the war began in February.

Long queues formed at petrol stations in some areas.

"It is clear now that most of the missiles hit the power systems of different cities," Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the presidential office, said on the Telegram messaging app.

He warned civilians that "you need to be prepared for the consequences of such shelling, up to rolling blackouts."

Power was later restored in Lviv in western Ukraine but it was not immediately clear when it would be fully back in the other regions without electricity - Ternopil in the west, Sumy in the northeast and Poltava in central Ukraine.

Kyiv city authorities called on residents and businesses to limit electricity consumption from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. and urged owners of advertising signs to turn off their lights during this time.

"We also appeal to Kyiv residents to refrain from using energy-consuming appliances whenever possible. Help the city survive critical loads on the power grid!" the municipal authorities said in a statement.

GRIM WINTER AHEAD

With no end in sight to the war, Ukrainian authorities had already been warning of Russian attacks on critical infrastructure and preparing for a grim winter. Monday's attacks increased those concerns.

Ukrainian military intelligence said the main goal of the attacks was to destroy thermal power plants as well as to "create panic among Ukrainians and intimidate the European public."

Ben Hodges, a retired U.S. general, said the intensity and volume of the attacks indicated they were planned before the weekend's explosion on a bridge linking Russia and annexed Crimea for which President Vladimir Putin said he was seeking revenge.

"To launch as many missiles as they did today, that’s not something you wake up in the morning and decide to do," Hodges, who commanded U.S. Army forces in Europe, told Reuters.

The war has wrought huge damage to the energy network, and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine is in "cold shutdown" after being occupied by Russian forces. The plant usually produces about one-fifth of Ukraine's electricity.

Officials have been urging people to stock up on everything from firewood to electric generators, and fear disruptions to the centralised home-heating season that are hard to prepare for because so many different things could go wrong.

Reporting by Max Hunder, Aleksandar Vasovic and Jonathan Landay, Writing by Timothy Heritage, Editing by Alistair Bell

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