‘Stock up on blankets’: Ukrainians brace for horrific winter

Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukraine could face nationwide blackouts until March, an energy expert says, due to what another official described on Tuesday as the “colossal” damage to Ukraine’s power grid by the incessant Russian airstrikes. Ukrainians are being told to stock up on supplies, evacuate hard-hit areas – or even consider leaving the country altogether.

Sergey Kovalenko, CEO of private energy supplier DTEK Yasno, said in a Facebook post on Monday evening that the company had received instructions from Ukraine’s public grid operator to resume emergency power outages in areas. it covers, including the capital Kyiv and the eastern region of Dnipropetrovsk.

“Although there are fewer power cuts now, I want everyone to understand: most likely Ukrainians will have to live with power cuts until at least the end of March,” Kovalenko warned.

“I think we have to be prepared for different options, even the worst ones. Stock up on warm clothes, blankets, think about what will help you wait for a long stop,” he said, addressing Ukrainian residents.

Russia has been hammering Ukraine’s power grid and other infrastructure for weeks as the war nears its nine-month milestone. This assault caused widespread blackouts and deprived millions of Ukrainians of electricity, heat and water.

“This winter will put the lives of millions of people in Ukraine at risk,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, World Health Organization Regional Director for Europe, due to lack of electricity and sanitary facilities damaged in Ukraine.

Temperatures generally stay below zero in Ukraine in winter, and snow has already hit many areas, including Kyiv. Ukrainian authorities have started evacuating civilians from recently liberated sections of the southern regions of Kherson and Mykolaiv, fearing the winter may be too harsh for survival.

Kovalenko said that even if there were no more Russian airstrikes, planned blackouts will be needed across Ukraine to ensure electricity is evenly distributed across the country’s devastated power grid.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian missile strikes damaged more than 50% of the country’s energy facilities.

“The scale of the destruction is colossal” on Russia’s dam power grid last week, Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, CEO of Ukrenergo, the public power grid operator, told Ukrainian television on Tuesday.

He said Ukraine had “virtually no undamaged thermal (or) hydropower plants” following the large-scale attack on Moscow on November 15.

Also on Tuesday, Kyiv regional authorities said more than 150 settlements were experiencing emergency power cuts due to oncoming winter conditions, including snowfall and high winds. More than 70 repair crews have been deployed to restore power across the province.

The battle for the ground continued unabated despite deteriorating weather conditions, with Ukrainian forces pressing Russian positions in a week-long counteroffensive and Moscow forces continuing shelling and attacks. missile strikes.

In a key battlefield development, a Ukrainian official admitted that Kyiv forces were attacking Russian positions on the Kinburn Spit, which is a gateway to the Black Sea basin and parts of the southern region. of Kherson which are still under Russian control.

Natalya Humenyuk, spokeswoman for the Ukrainian army’s Southern Operational Command, said in televised remarks that Ukrainian forces were “continuing a military operation” in the region.

The Kinburn Spit is the last Russian outpost in the Mykolaiv region of southern Ukraine, directly west of Kherson. Ukrainian forces recently liberated other parts of Kherson and Mykolaiv regions.

Moscow used the Kinburn Spit as a staging ground for missile and artillery strikes on Ukrainian positions in Mykolaiv province and elsewhere along the Ukrainian-controlled Black Sea coast.

Ukraine recently recaptured the city of Kherson, on the west bank of the Dnieper, and its surroundings.

Capturing the Kinburn Spit could help Ukrainian forces penetrate territory Russia still holds in the Kherson region “under far less Russian artillery fire” than crossing the Dnieper directly, a Washington-based think tank has said. .

The Institute for War Studies added that controlling the area would help Kyiv mitigate Russian strikes on southern Ukrainian seaports and allow Ukraine to increase naval activity in the Black Sea. .

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s presidential office said on Tuesday that at least eight civilians had been killed and 16 injured in the past 24 hours as Moscow forces again used drones, rockets and heavy artillery to shell eight Ukrainian regions.

Since the invasion of Russia on February 24, the war has killed at least 16,784 civilians and injured 10,189, according to estimates by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In the eastern Donetsk region, heavy fighting continued around the town of Bakhmut, where Kremlin forces are keen to secure a victory after weeks of embarrassing military setbacks.

Speaking on Ukrainian television, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russia had launched missiles at the city of Kramatorsk, which houses the local headquarters of the Ukrainian army, and at the strategic town of Avdiivka.

Kyrylenko added that power supply and communications are non-existent in most of the Donetsk region.

According to Ukraine’s presidential office, one civilian was killed and three others injured after Russia shelled the city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces recaptured on November 10.


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