Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks at the press conference after the opening session of Crimea Platform conference in Kyiv Ukraine, 23 August 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/OLEG PETRASYUK/POOL

Ukraine evacuates citizens from war-torn Middle East

Kyiv, Oct 16 (EFE).- President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said hundreds of Ukrainian citizens have been evacuated from the conflict-ridden Middle East.

“The evacuation of Ukrainians from Israel continues. More than 200 people have already been taken to Romania, mostly women and children. New flights are being prepared,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video message.

He expressed concern for approximately 260 Ukrainians currently stranded in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli airstrikes and difficulties in securing evacuation routes through Egypt pose significant challenges.

“Currently, the exit from Gaza is inaccessible to citizens of all nationalities, but we are collaborating with our international partners to ensure the safe return of our citizens,” stated Zelenskyy.

Following the Oct.7 attack by Hamas, which claimed the lives of 1,300, including at least seven Ukrainians, there are concerns about the wellbeing of nine Ukrainians who remain unaccounted for, raising fears of possible abductions by the Islamist group in the Gaza Strip.

Nine other Ukrainians were injured in the multi-pronged attack by Hamas on Israel.

According to the Hamas Health Ministry, the Israeli response to the attack has already caused more than 2,000 deaths in Gaza.

In his address, Zelenskyy alleged that Russian forces bombed the electrical system of the southern Kherson region over the weekend, leaving numerous towns without electricity.

He said the energy system in the Donetsk region, in the eastern part of the country and also partially occupied by Russia, was also bombed by the Russians.

However, he reported that repair crews have successfully restored electricity and water supplies to most parts of Kherson.

“As of now, Kherson has electricity and water supplies restored in almost the entire city,” Zelenskyy said.

He warned of potential future Russian attacks on critical infrastructure, including power generation facilities and networks, as winter approaches.

He pledged to enhance air defense capabilities and collaborate with international partners on unexplored defense strategies.

“We must be prepared for this. We will strengthen our air defense as much as possible in the current circumstances. And even more, we are agreeing with our partners on defense steps that have not been used before,” he added.

Ukrainian authorities have been cautioning about the likelihood of a repeat of last October’s extensive bombing campaign by Russia on the energy system, which resulted in millions of Ukrainians enduring power and heating shortages throughout the winter. EFE