Ukraine’s government was working to restore power to millions 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 strikes targeting critical infrastructure that have left large parts of the country 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. Many historians argue that the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin orchestrated a famine 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 of Russia 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 on Twitter on Saturday 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,” he added, “Russia unleashed a full-scale war against us and wants to organize Holodomor 2.0.”
President Biden paid tribute to the millions of lives lost in the famine.
“Even as the brave Ukrainian people continue to defend their democracy and freedom from Russia’s brutal aggression,” he said in a statement this week, “we pause to also honor the victims of past injustices and horrors inflicted on Ukraine.”
Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Yermak were joined in Kyiv, the capital, on Saturday by leaders from Belgium, Hungary, Lithuania and Poland for the start of a new initiative timed to the anniversary and aimed at helping get Ukrainian grain to poorer countries.
It was the highest-level visit by an official from Hungary since Russia invaded in February, with Hungary’s president, Katalin Novak, among the leaders in attendance. The meeting comes just days before the European Union is expected to make a final decision on whether to release billions of euros in frozen funding for Hungary, which has been seen as a weak link in an otherwise united front against Russian aggression.
Ms. Novak is a close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, who has declined to condemn Mr. Putin directly over Russia’s invasion and has stayed away from Kyiv.
In Ukraine, more than six million households were still without power Saturday after another deadly barrage of Russian strikes 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 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 national energy utility, Ukrenergo, said on Saturday that repairs had restored enough power to meet 75 percent of the country’s consumption needs. In a statement posted on Facebook, it urged Ukrainians to continue conserving electricity.
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.
While no attacks were reported in the city overnight, the local authorities said shelling a day earlier had killed two people in the surrounding area.
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,” he told the nation in his nightly address on Tuesday, “the work of ‘Points of Invincibility’ will be activated.” But on Friday, Mr. Zelensky 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, though he did not mention him by name, saying that some of the sites there “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.
Andrew Higgins contributed reporting.