Ukraine’s government was still trying to restore power on Saturday as the country commemorated the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor, the devastating famine that President Volodymyr Zelensky compared to the wave of Russian airstrikes targeting critical infrastructure that left millions cold and in the dark.
The Holodomor, which means “death by hunger” in Ukrainian, spread in Kazakhstan and through southern Russia, but was harshest in Ukraine, where it left entire villages to starve. Ukrainian historians argue that the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin orchestrated a famine brought on by the Soviets’ forced collectivization of farms to crush Ukrainian aspirations for independence.
Government officials on Saturday marked the anniversary of the 1932-33 famine — which is observed annually on the fourth Saturday of November — at a time when President Vladimir V. Putin is accused of using missile strikes on Ukraine’s power grid to freeze the country into submission.
“Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger, now — with darkness and cold,” Mr. Zelensky said in a statement on Saturday. “We cannot be broken. Our fire will not go out. We will conquer death again.”
The head of his office, Andriy Yermak, said that freedom had always been of paramount importance to Ukrainians and that in the 1930s, “the Soviet authorities tried to destroy their will to resist — along with them.”
“Now, 90 years later, Russia unleashed a full-scale war against us and wants to organize Holodomor 2.0,” he wrote on Twitter.
His comments came as more than six million households were still without power after another deadly barrage of Russian airstrikes this week that further damaged an already limping national grid. That was down from 12 million on Wednesday evening, the day of the strikes, Mr. Zelensky said.
Ukraine has struggled to get the electricity turned back on, as weeks of Russian strikes have degraded its infrastructure and made repairs harder. The waves of Russian assaults have left about 40 percent of Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure damaged or destroyed, officials say — with some sites hit at least five or six times.
The southern city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces recaptured two weeks ago, had been without heat and electricity after departing Russian soldiers blew up much of the region’s critical infrastructure. But the authorities said on Saturday that the electricity supply had been restored, even as Russian forces continued to pound the city with strikes from afar.
This week Mr. Zelensky announced a national drive to create “Points of Invincibility,” thousands of makeshift centers that would provide basic services — electricity, internet access, heat, water and more — in the event of prolonged blackouts.
“If massive Russian strikes take place again and if there is an understanding that the electricity supply cannot be restored within hours, the work of ‘Points of Invincibility’ will be activated,” he told the nation in his nightly address on Tuesday. But on Friday he acknowledged that there were issues with the campaign, saying that he was aware that not all cities had “done a good job” setting up the shelters.
He singled out Kyiv and its mayor in particular, saying that some of the sites “still need to be improved, to put it mildly.”
“Kyiv residents need more protection,” he said in his nightly address. “I expect quality work from the mayor’s office.” He added: “Please be more serious.” Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, did not immediately respond.