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Russian shelling of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson killed 15 civilians Friday, officials said, as engineers across the country sought to restore heat, water and power to major cities.
Throughout the country, Russian air strikes in recent weeks have brought Ukraine's energy infrastructure to its knees as winter approaches and temperatures near freezing, spurring fears of a health crisis and a further exodus.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said more than six million households in the country were still affected by power cuts, two days after targeted Russian strikes on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.
The country's national energy company, Ukrenergo, said late Friday that the grid was still facing a 30 percent deficit, with its technicians working "around the clock" to restore power. But it said it expected to increase coverage over the weekend, boosted by additional nuclear power.
The attack on Kherson, a key southeastern city recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces, marked the deadliest Russian bombardment in recent days.
A total of "15 residents were killed and 35 injured, including one child, as a result of enemy shelling", city official Galyna Lugova said. Several "private houses and high-rise buildings" had been damaged, she added.
"The Russian invaders opened fire on a residential area with multiple rocket launchers. A large building caught fire," said Yarovslav Yanushovich, head of the Kherson military administration.
Earlier Friday, the region's governor said patients in the city hospital and others from a psychiatric unit had been evacuated because of "constant Russian shelling".
The Kherson city council said it was offering to evacuate civilians to other regions.
The attacks on power stations and other infrastructure resources throughout Ukraine are Russia's latest attempt to force Ukrainian capitulation after Moscow's forces failed to topple the government and capture Kyiv in the war's early stages.
In the capital, where about half of residents were still without power two days after Russian strikes hammered the country's energy grid, engineers worked to restore services.
"We have to endure this winter, a winter that everyone will remember," Zelensky said on social media, as UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly visited to announce a new aid package.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal told a government meeting, "Almost all Ukraine's critical infrastructure has been reconnected."
Critical infrastructure includes water utilities, heat generation plants, hospitals and emergency services.
But Shmygal said ordinary consumers continued to face scheduled power cuts across every region of the country.
Ukraine's Western allies have denounced the Russian attacks on energy infrastructure as a "war crime". The strikes have come in the wake of a string of military setbacks for Russia on the frontlines.
Moscow insists it is targeting only military-linked infrastructure and has blamed Kyiv for the blackouts, saying Ukraine can end the suffering by agreeing to Russian demands.
Putin meets mothers
Meanwhile, for the first time since he launched the war in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin met the mothers of soldiers fighting in Ukraine, assuring those whose children had been killed that he and Russia's elite "share this pain".
"I want you to know I, personally, and the entire leadership of the country share this pain," he told them.
He said that many reports about the conflict could not be trusted, describing them as "fake news, deceit and lies".
Russia has introduced legislation that effectively bans public criticism of the war.
Kremlin critics accuse authorities of concealing the real number of dead and wounded Russian troops.
Anger and concern have built across Russia since the Kremlin announced in September that hundreds of thousands of well-trained and well-equipped conscripts would be sent to the battlefield to bolster Moscow's struggling campaign.
But chaos ensued, with widespread reports of exempted men -- including the elderly and infirm -- being dispatched to the front and conscripts dying after receiving nearly no training, forcing the Kremlin to concede "mistakes".
Putin's meeting with the soldiers' mothers is a sign the Kremlin takes the growing malaise seriously.
Visiting Kyiv on Friday, Britain's foreign minister announced new aid for Ukraine, including ambulances and support for victims of sexual violence by Russian soldiers.
"Russia is continuing to try and break Ukrainian resolve through its brutal attacks on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure," Cleverly said.
"Russia will fail," he said, vowing UK support "will continue for as long as it takes".
Meanwhile, the head of Russian mercenary outfit Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said Friday that a former US Marine general and several British and Finnish fighters were operating with the group in Ukraine.
"(Finns) are fighting in a British battalion (as part of Wagner PMC), which is commanded by a US citizen, a former general of the Marine Corps," Prigozhin's press service said he told Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.
© Agence France-Presse
On November 22 and 23, meteorologists forecast heavy snow for the Texas Panhandle — including, according to some projections, up to two feet in Amarillo. And some Twitter users, upon hearing the forecast, used the snowstorm to mock and ridicule Sen. Ted Cruz.
In February 2021, Texas suffered unusually cold temperatures that put considerable stress on its power grid — which wasn’t properly winterized — and led to widespread outages. Millions of Texans found themselves without heat in freezing temperatures. During the crisis, Cruz headed to Cancun, Mexico to escape the cold and was slammed as “Cancun Cruz” by critics who argued that he was abandoning Texans when they needed help the most.
Many Twitter users haven’t forgotten the “Cancun Cruz” taunts of February 2021, and the Texas Panhandle snowstorm gave them a new opportunity to make fun of the far-right GOP senator.
Cruz doesn’t live near the Texas Panhandle, which is in the far north of Texas west of Oklahoma, but rather, in South Texas hundreds of miles away. Nonetheless, Twitter users welcomed a chance to have some laughs at Cruz’s expense.
Twitter user Tammy Sahargun, @TammySahargun, posted, “Anyone know where Ted Cruz is heading?” while @SweetPea6962 asked, “@TedCruz @SenTedCruz Have you booked your flight to Mexico yet???” And @VotingTweeter wrote, “Major snow storm is going to dump on Texas. Are you packed?”
Another Twitter user wrote, “Does Texas have any contingency plans in case what happened last winter happens again? You gonna leave people to die again? In your case, Ted, off to Mexico again?"
When Cruz fled to Mexico during the February 2021, he insisted that he came right back to Texas in response to reports on the disaster. Cruz’s critics, however, maintained that he only came back in response to the bad publicity he was receiving, not in response to the crisis itself.
Although former President Donald Trump is by no means universally loved within Christianity and has his share of critics among Catholics and Mainline Protestants, he has been incredibly popular within a certain area of Christianity: far-right White fundamentalist evangelicals. That movement, which has been called the Christian Right or the Religious Right, has had a firm grip on the Republican Party since the early 1980s. And although Trump himself was raised Presbyterian, not evangelical, and is not known for being very religious, he was made a point of courting evangelicals.
One pastor who is critical of the relationship between Trump and the Christian Right is Caleb Campbell of the Desert Springs Bible Church in Phoenix, Arizona. According to a report from the Globe & Mail’s Nathan VanderKlippe, Campbell is trying to counter the Trump/MAGA influence on evangelicals.
“You can think of Donald Trump’s most faithful adherents as bigots or patriots, constitutional standard-bearers or deluded masses,” VanderKlippe writes in an article published on November 25. “Caleb Campbell likes to think of them as sheep that have gone astray. He has made it his work to lead them back…. Mr. Campbell’s introduction to the congregation of Trump came in a church, after fellow Christians suggested he attend what was described as a revival event organized by Turning Point.”
Turning Point is the pro-Trump group led by right-wing activist Charlie Kirk. Campbell told the Globe & Mail that when he first heard Kirk speaking at a MAGA/evangelical event, he was “absolutely terrified and horrified.”
“Mr. Kirk established Turning Point USA and, in 2021, TPUSA Faith, which organized some of the events Mr. Campbell attended,” VanderKlippe explains. “Mr. Kirk calls the separation of church and state a lie, saying ‘the church founded this country’ and, today, ‘has to rise up in every capacity.’ TPUSA Faith’s ambition is to gather and organize religious leaders, providing them with resources ‘to activate their congregations to fight for free people, free markets, free speech and limited government.’ Listening to that message left Mr. Campbell unsettled.”
Campbell describes Christian nationalism as “a mean-spirited, vulgar grab for power with violent rhetoric.”
“Mr. Campbell’s initial efforts to push back were not popular with his White, evangelical and suburban parishioners,” VanderKlippe notes. “His congregation shrank from 800 people to 300. He began to write a book about engaging the ‘mission field’ of new religious conservatism — and started to attract new congregants, whom he describes as ‘disheartened, if not disgusted, by the amalgamation of nationalism and Christianity.’”
VanderKlippe adds, “(Campbell) has fashioned a tool kit for winning back the souls from the Trump church. He begins by establishing personal trust, without which people tend to resist questioning their own beliefs. He encourages people to fast from media for two weeks. And he invites them to sit at a table with others who hold different views to discuss hot-button issues such as immigration.”