Sunday, December 4, 2022

Ukraine braces for harsh winter as Russian strikes cripple power facilities

Ukraine braces for harsh winter as Russian strikes cripple power facilities

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukrainians braced for a winter with little or no power in several areas including Kyiv where temperatures have already dropped below freezing as relentless Russian strikes crippled half of the country's energy capacity.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged people to conserve power, particularly in hard-hit areas such as Kyiv, Vinnytsia in the southwest, Sumy in the north and Odesa on the Black Sea.

Moscow's response to military setbacks in recent weeks has included a barrage of missile strikes against power facilities, and Zelenskiy said that half of the country's power capacity had been knocked out by Russian rockets.

"The systematic damage to our energy system from strikes by the Russian terrorists is so considerable that all our people and businesses should be mindful and redistribute their consumption throughout the day," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address. "Try to limit your personal consumption of electricity."

Millions of Ukrainians are most likely to live with blackouts - a daily occurrence across the country - at least until the end of March, the head of a major energy provider said on Monday.

Sergey Kovalenko, the head of YASNO, which provides energy for Kyiv, said workers are rushing to complete repairs before the winter cold arrives.

"Stock up on warm clothes, blankets, think about options that will help you wait a long outage," Kovalenko said. "It's better to do it now than to be miserable."

Citizens in the recently liberated southern city of Kherson, where Kyiv says Russian troops destroyed critical infrastructure before leaving earlier this month, can apply to be relocated to areas where security and heating issues are less acute.

In a Telegram message for Kherson residents - especially the elderly, women with children and those who are ill or disabled - Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk posted a number of ways residents can express interest in leaving.

"You can be evacuated for the winter period to safer regions of the country," she wrote, citing both security and infrastructure problems.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the blackouts and Russia's strikes on energy infrastructure are the consequences of Kyiv being unwilling to negotiate, the state TASS news agency reported late last week.

On Monday evening, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia was bombarding Kherson from across the Dnipro River, now that its troops had fled.

"There is no military logic: they just want to take revenge on the locals," he tweeted.

Moscow denies intentionally targeting civilians in what it calls a "special military operation" to rid Ukraine of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities.