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Ukrainians endure widespread blackouts after Russia’s attacks

Nov. 18, 2022 Updated Fri., Nov. 18, 2022 at 9:26 p.m.

Local residents hold blankets and lamps during an aid supply distribution in the center of Kherson, Ukraine, on Thursday.  (BULENT KILIC/Getty Images North America/TNS)
Local residents hold blankets and lamps during an aid supply distribution in the center of Kherson, Ukraine, on Thursday. (BULENT KILIC/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Volodymyr Verbyany and Olesia Safronova Bloomberg News

Ukraine is approaching the winter months with blackouts spreading across the country, as Russia’s missile campaign pummels power stations, grid networks and other civilian facilities.

More than 10 million Ukrainians – about a quarter of the pre-war population – are without electricity, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his overnight address Thursday, as the first snow fell in the capital Kyiv.

“We’re doing everything to stabilize supply,” the Ukrainian leader said. The majority of the outages are affecting the region around Kyiv in central Ukraine, the western region of Vinnytsia, the area around the Black Sea port of Odesa in the south and the Sumy region in the north, he said.

Millions of Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia invaded in February. Some officials have encouraged them to stay abroad to reduce the strain on Ukraine’s infrastructure. Others have called for patience – or to relocate from large cities to suburbs or the countryside.

Multiple emergency blackouts this week hit Kyiv with the heaviest power shortage since the war started, local grid company Yasno said. Temperatures in the capital are expected to plunge to 21 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday.

On Tuesday, Russia launched the most severe air attack since the invasion began, and the onslaught has continued with crucial infrastructure facilities hit in the country’s east and south, including Odesa.

Parts of Ukraine may be without electricity for days, and once restored, power may be available only for two to three hours a day, DTEK Energy Chief Executive Officer Dmytro Sakharuk said Thursday on national television. Repairs are increasingly difficult as critical facilities are destroyed.

The Kremlin is deliberately targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in an attempt to break the resistance of the Ukrainian people as Russian troops suffer painful setbacks on the battlefield. Moscow this month ordered a retreat from the southern city of Kherson, the only regional center seized during the war.

Ruslan Martsinkiv, the mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk, a western Ukrainian town about 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Lviv, urged residents to find shelter in the country or at private homes.

“Someone may have relatives or friends there – it will be very difficult to survive in apartment buildings,” he said in a radio interview Thursday. “One needs to brace for the worst, since there will be no light for days, not just hours.”

The damage inflicted on Kherson’s energy infrastructure by the withdrawing Russian troops is estimated at as much as $54 million, according to Volodymyr Hetmanov, CEO of VS Energy International Ukraine, which manages the local power grid.

It’ll take up to three weeks to restore electricity in the city after infrastructure was completely destroyed, Hetmanov said in a statement.

Ukraine’s businesses and households are grappling with limited electricity, heating and Internet access with greater demand for fuel generators, power chargers and SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network. In the month to Nov. 10, sales of diesel generators in the country’s largest home improvement chain soared tenfold, according to news wire Interfax Ukraine.

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