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Ukraine’s capital goes into survival mode

By JOHN LEICESTER, HANNA ARHIROVA and SAM MEDNICK (Associated Press)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Residents of the bombed Ukrainian capital grabbed empty bottles in search of water and crowded into cafes for electricity and heat on Thursday, defiantly going into survival mode after fresh Russian missile strikes the day before plunged the city and much of the country into darkness.

In hard-to-believe scenes in a sophisticated city of 3 million, some Kyiv residents resorted to collecting rainwater from drainpipes as repair crews scrambled to reconnect the supplies.

Friends and family members exchanged messages to find out who had collected electricity and water. Some had one but not the other. The previous day’s aerial assault on Ukraine’s power grid left no one without either.

The cafes of Kyiv which, by a small miracle, had both quickly become oases of comfort on Thursday.

Oleksiy Rashchupkin, a 39-year-old investment banker, woke up to find water had been reconnected to his third-floor apartment, but electricity had not. Her freezer thawed in the blackout, leaving a puddle of water on her floor.

So he jumped into a taxi and crossed the Dnieper from the left bank to the right, to a cafe he had noticed had remained open after previous Russian strikes. Sure enough it was serving hot drinks, hot food and the music and wifi was on.

“I am here because there is heating, coffee and light,” he says. “Here is life.”

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said around 70% of Ukraine’s capital was still without power as of Thursday morning.

As Kyiv and other cities recovered, Kherson on Thursday suffered its heaviest bombardment since Ukrainian forces recaptured the southern city two weeks ago. The barrage of missiles killed four people outside a cafe and a woman was also killed next to her house, witnesses said, speaking to Associated Press reporters.

In Kyiv, where cold rain fell on the remnants of previous snowfalls, the mood was gloomy but steely. The winter promises to be long. But Ukrainians say that if Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intention is to break them, he should think again.

“No one will compromise their will and their principles just for electricity,” said Alina Dubeiko, 34. She, too, sought the comfort of another equally crowded, warm and bright café. Without electricity, heating and water at home, she was determined to maintain her work routine. Adjusting to the privacy of her usual comforts, Dubeiko said she uses two glasses of water to wash herself, then pulls her hair back into a ponytail and is ready for her day at work.

She said she would rather be without electricity than live with the Russian invasion, which passed the nine-month mark on Thursday.

“Without light or you? Without you,” she said, echoing words spoken by President Volodymyr Zelenskky when Russia on October 10 unleashed the first of what has now become a series of aerial attacks on key Ukrainian infrastructure.

Western leaders denounced the bombing campaign. “Strikes against civilian infrastructure are war crimes,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov admitted on Thursday that he was targeting Ukrainian energy facilities. But he said they were linked to Ukraine’s military command and control system and the purpose was to disrupt the flow of Ukrainian troops, weapons and ammunition to the front lines. Authorities in Kyiv and the wider Kyiv region reported a total of 7 people killed and dozens injured.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said: “We are conducting strikes against infrastructure in response to the rampant flow of weapons into Ukraine and Kyiv’s reckless calls to defeat Russia.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also sought to blame the civil difficulties on the Ukrainian government.

“The leadership of Ukraine has every chance to bring the situation back to normal, has every chance to resolve the situation in such a way as to meet the demands of the Russian side and, therefore, to put an end to all possible suffering of the population civil,” Peskov said. .

In Kyiv, people lined up outside public water points to fill plastic bottles. In a strange new wartime first for her, Kateryna Luchkina, a 31-year-old health department employee, resorted to collecting rainwater from a drainpipe, so that she could at least wash her hands at work, which had no water. She filled two plastic bottles, waiting patiently in the rain until they were full of water. A colleague followed her doing the same.

“We Ukrainians are so resourceful, we will think of something. We don’t lose our minds,” Luchkina said. “We work, live at survival pace or something, as much as possible. We do not lose hope that everything will be fine. »

The city’s mayor said on Telegram that electrical engineers are “doing their best” to restore power. Water repair crews were also advancing. In the early afternoon, Klitschko announced that water supplies had been restored across the capital, with the warning that “some consumers may still experience low water pressure”.

Electricity, heating and water were gradually returning elsewhere as well. In the Dnipropetrovsk region of southeastern Ukraine, the governor announced that 3,000 miners trapped underground due to power outages had been rescued. Regional authorities posted messages on social media notifying people of the progress of repairs, but also saying they needed time.

Aware of the difficulties – current and future, as winter progresses – authorities are opening thousands of so-called “invincibility points” – heated and powered spaces offering hot meals, electricity and internet connections. More than 3,700 were open across the country Thursday morning, said senior presidential office official Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

In Kherson, hospitals without electricity or water also face the horrific aftermath of intensified Russian strikes. They struck residential and commercial buildings on Thursday, setting some on fire, blowing ash skyward and smashing glass in the streets. Paramedics helped the injured.

Olena Zhura was bringing bread to her neighbors when a strike that destroyed half her house injured her husband, Victor. He was writhing in pain as the paramedics took him away.

“I was shocked,” she said, crying. “Then I heard him scream, ‘Save me, save me.

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Mednick reported from Kherson, Ukraine.

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Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine at: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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