Half of Kiev’s residents are still without electricity after strikes
Almost half of Kyiv residents were still without power on Friday as engineers struggled to restore supplies, two days after Russian strikes hammered the country’s power grid.
Weeks of systematic and targeted Russian attacks have brought Ukraine’s energy infrastructure to its knees as the country heads into a freezing winter, raising fears of a health crisis and another exodus after nine months of war.
Council workers struggled to reconnect essential services like heating and water on Friday as temperatures in Kyiv neared freezing and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly visited to announce a new aid package.
“Half of consumers are still without electricity,” said Mayor Vitali Klitschko. “A third of houses in Kyiv already have heating, and specialists continue to restore them.”
“During the day, the energy companies plan to reconnect the electricity for all consumers in turn,” he wrote on Telegram.
According to AFP journalists, queues of cars lined up in front of gas stations in Kyiv on Friday to stock up. Cell phone networks were still disrupted in some areas.
Repair work is underway nationwide, said Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, head of national electricity company Ukrenergo, but insisted “the most difficult phase” was over.
Ukrenergo said the growers covered more than 70 percent of the country’s needs.
– ‘We live like this now’ –
Millions of Ukrainians have endured the cold without power since Russia fired dozens of rockets and launched drone strikes on water and electricity plants on Wednesday.
“Yes, this is a difficult situation, and yes, it can happen again. But Ukraine can cope with it,” said presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on TV.
With the gas off for cooking and heating in her Kyiv apartment, Albina Bilogub told AFP that she and her children all sleep in the same room to keep warm.
“Very few people have petrol in our building, so we go to the woman I work for — I change her clothes because she’s disabled — and we cook there,” she said.
“This is our life. A sweater, a second, a third. That’s how we live now.”
In northern Kiev, a veterinarian in a blue coat and face mask shone a light over an operating table in a darkened clinic as colleagues operated on an ailing dog late Thursday.
“We were in the middle of an operation and our lights went out because a missile hit not far away, so there was a power outage,” Oleksiy Yankovenko said.
“I had to finish the operation under the flashlights,” he added.
– “Brutal Attacks” –
Ukraine’s western allies have denounced Russian energy strikes as “war crimes,” which came after a series of military setbacks for Russia on the front lines.
Moscow insists it only targets military-connected infrastructure and blames Kyiv for the blackouts as Ukraine can end suffering by agreeing to Russian demands.
The British Foreign Secretary, during his visit to Kyiv, announced new aid to Ukraine, including ambulances and support for victims of sexual violence by Russian soldiers.
“As winter sets in, Russia continues to try to break Ukrainian resolve with its brutal attacks on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure,” Cleverly said.
“Russia will fail,” he said, vowing to continue British support “as long as necessary”.
The attacks on Ukraine’s grid are Russia’s latest strategy to force Ukraine to surrender after Moscow forces failed to overthrow the government and capture Kyiv nine months after beginning their invasion.
Despite seizing large swathes of territory to the south and east, and the Kremlin claiming to have annexed four regions, Ukrainian forces are retaking areas.
Russian forces have shelled the southern city of Kherson, from which they withdrew in their latest setback earlier this month. The Ukrainian presidency said eleven people were killed and nearly 50 injured in the Kherson region on Thursday.