Kyiv prepares for “the worst winter of our lives”

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – When the power goes out, as it often does, high-rise apartments overlooking Ukraine’s war-torn capital look like a death trap. No lights, no water, and no way to cook. and the risk of not being able to escape from the 21st floor in time in the event of a Russian missile attack. Even when the electricity comes back on, it doesn’t work for long.

“Russian strikes are plunging Ukraine into the stone age,” says Anastasia Berozenko. In a final 24-hour spell, her towering 26-story tower only had power for half an hour. She says that “military living conditions” prompted her and her husband to leave their apartment.

The 25-year-old said, “Our building is the highest in the region and is a big target for Russian missiles, so we left our apartment for our parents’ house and are preparing for the worst winter of our lives.”

The situation in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and other major cities deteriorated dramatically after the largest missile attack on the country’s power grid on Tuesday. Ukraine’s state-owned grid operator Ukrainego reported that 40% of Ukrainians are experiencing hardship, due to damage to at least 15 major power centers across the country.

The network warned that since power outages could last anywhere from several hours to several days, “resilience and courage are what we need this winter.”

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko also stressed the need to be prepared And resilient in the face of potential power outages: “Worst case scenario. Actually, I don’t like talking about it, but I have to be prepared if (we have) no electricity, blackouts, no water, no heat, no utilities and no communications,” Klitschko told the Associated Press on Friday.

“Thousands of kilometers of main high-voltage lines are not working,” Okernergo said in a statement, affecting the entire country.

It published a picture of a transformer station destroyed by a Russian missile, which led to power outages for about 400,000 people. According to the report, “There are dozens of these transformers in the power system now. This device cannot be quickly replaced.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky said after last week’s strikes that more than 10 million Ukrainians were left without electricity; By Sunday, he said, some areas had seen improvement.

“Restoration of networks and technical supply capabilities, demining of power transmission lines, repairs – everything is going around the clock,” Zelensky said in his nightly speech.

He said that the power outage was scheduled for Sunday evening in 15 regions and cities of Kyiv. Oknergo said there will be scheduled outages in each region on Monday.

A severe cold snap and the first snows greatly complicated the situation in Kyiv, where temperatures are often below freezing in the winter months. The cold forces people to turn on their heaters, which greatly increases the load on the grid and makes blackouts longer. In view of the drop in temperatures, the Kyiv authorities announced that they had set up common heating points.

In the city of 3 million people, 528 emergency points have been identified. Here, residents will be able to keep warm, drink tea, recharge their phones and get any necessary help. Heating points will be equipped with independent power supplies, as well as special boiler rooms.

Mayor Klitschko also spoke about the measures taken to prepare for power outages with the onset of cold temperatures: “We have prepared (ordered) generators (from) our partners, which they send to us. In this case, we have reserves of diesel, (of) oil. We have a lot of Warm stuff. We have medicine.”

Many Kyiv residents have started leaving food boxes, light bulbs and power banks in elevators, in case anyone gets stuck in one for too long. Due to the lack of electricity, public transportation has been disrupted, many small shops cannot operate, and some medical institutions can only operate at limited capacity.

Dentist Viktor Trakevich said he has been forced to postpone his patients’ appointments “indefinitely” because without electricity his central clinic in Kyiv cannot operate even during the day, and the generator will arrive in only a few weeks.

“We cannot accept patients even with severe toothache, people have to suffer and wait for a long time, but the light is only on for a few hours a day,” Turakevich said. “The prices of generators have skyrocketed, but even with money, it is not easy to get them.”

Most hospitals in Kyiv have already received generators and there are no power cuts there yet. Oleksandrovska Hospital, the largest and oldest hospital in central Kyiv, stated that it did not cancel elective surgeries because the hospital received generators from France. Generators were also provided to educational institutions and social services.

“Such facilities are a priority for us, and most of them are equipped with independent energy sources,” Volodymyr Kudritsky, head of Okenergo, said on Friday. However, many schools in Kyiv have suffered significant disruption to the learning process, with electricity shortages meaning internet outages that make distance learning nearly impossible.

Yaroslav, 8, stopped attending his school in the Vinohradar district of Kyiv after a missile attack blew out all the school’s windows and damaged a shelter there.

“Most of the children studied remotely, but now this can no longer be done,” Yaroslav’s mother Olena, who asked that her last name be withheld for safety reasons, said in a phone interview. “We try to protect children from the horrors of war, but the cold and lack of power greatly hinder this.”

Analysts say that the Russian missile attacks on the energy industry do not affect the successful advance of the Ukrainian army in the south and the situation on the battlefield in general.

“The Russians cannot win on the battlefield, so they use cold and darkness as a weapon against the civilian population, trying to sow panic, depression and demoralize Ukrainians,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, an analyst at the PENTA think tank in Kyiv. ap.

He said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “suffers from military defeats and is in dire need of a military pause, which is why he is forcing Zelensky to enter negotiations in such a wild way.”

The analyst believes that the Kremlin is also trying to pressure Western support for Ukraine, as the European Union and the United States will be forced to expand aid packages to frozen Kyiv amid growing domestic problems.

“Putin is trying to make the price of supporting Ukraine too high – and this applies both to money and to a possible new influx of refugees into Europe from a frozen country,” said Physenko.

After leaving a high-rise, Berozenko moved in with her mother in a small Kyiv apartment, now home to five people. The family owns a wooden house in a village near Kyiv and has already prepared firewood in case of forced eviction.

“We understand that winter can be long, cold and dark, but we are ready to put up with it,” said Berozenko. We are ready to live without light, but not with the Russians.

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