Kyiv, Ukraine— Ukraine faced widespread power outages on Thursday as the country’s energy system struggled to deal with damage from a wave of Russian attacks.
Civilians across the country have been warned to prepare for planned power outages of up to four hours at a stretch as Ukraine’s national energy company, Ukrenergo, urged people to charge all their devices and stock up on warm socks, blankets and flashlights.
Russian President Vladimir PoutineThe forces launched intensified missile strikes and “kamikaze” drone attacks on critical infrastructure, in what Ukrainian officials and Western military analysts see as a deliberate new Kremlin strategy ahead of winter.
Of Kharkov to the east for Lviv in the west, Russian attacks damaged or destroyed facilities across the country that provided electricity, heat, and water throughout the war. Officials pleaded with people to conserve power as crews tried to track repairs.
In just over a week, the Moscow army destroyed up to 30% of the country’s power plants, President Volodymyr Zelensky said. Kyiv has accused Russia of seeking to wipe out the country’s energy system as colder weather sets in because the Kremlin’s military faces a litany of setbacks on the battlefield.
“We assume that Russian terror will be directed against energy installations until, with the help of partners, we ensure the ability to shoot down 100% of enemy missiles and drones,” Zelenskyy said in a statement. video address Wednesday.
Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said on Thursday the government was seeking a 20% reduction in energy consumption and that Ukrainians had answered the call to ease pressure on the country’s grid.
“Anger more than fear”
Residents of the country’s capital, Kyiv, told NBC News they had prepared for shortages by stocking up on candles, portable chargers, diesel generators, gas stoves and even thermal underwear and electric blankets .
Iryna Veremenko, who lives in an apartment in Kyiv, said she prepared for possible power outages on Thursday by charging all her devices the day before and setting aside easy-to-heat foods.
Veremenko, 38, said she had turned off all of her appliances and was relying on her flat’s gas supply to cook or heat water if needed.
“I feel more anger than fear,” Veremenko said, adding that the strikes against Ukraine’s energy systems showed Moscow’s desperation, which she said is all the more reason for Ukraine to resist.
The business analyst said she prepared for temporary shutdowns by stocking up on canned food, keeping her portable charger ready at all times and having a travel gas burner ready to go. She also has a sleeping bag designed for sub-freezing temperatures, a thermal blanket, and even ski gear in case the temperatures continue to drop and the strikes on energy targets continue.
The mercury in the Ukrainian capital over the next week is not expected to exceed 50 degrees Fahrenheit, according to current forecasts.
Yuriy Kamelchuk, a Ukrainian lawmaker and member of the House Energy Committee, told NBC News that Ukrainians are adapting and even though power cuts become regular, “we know why we endure them.”
“All for true independence and freedom from a crazy neighbor,” Kamelchuk said.
Yana Balatsko, who lives with her husband and three dogs in a private home in the western Ukrainian town of Chernivtsi, said by phone Thursday that she was also heeding government warnings and downplaying the use of all electronics and appliances.
Should the power cuts continue, Balatsko, 34, said he has a diesel generator and a supply of wood to keep the house warm. They also still have candles and power banks that they stockpiled at the start of the war, she said.
While feeling prepared, Balatsko, who works in IT, said the situation was taking its toll.
“I feel depressed one day and ready to fight the next,” Balatsko said. “I’m angry, I’m fed up with the war, but we have to hold on until the end. … We’re going to win, I’m sure. The current restrictions are worth it.
For months, the Kremlin has said it only targets military targets – not civilian or critical infrastructure in Ukraine. But since the attack on a key bridge in the annexed Crimean peninsula gave Putin a strategic role and symbolic blowthe Russian Ministry of Defense has been open about striking energy targets in Ukraine.
Reports of the damage and resulting power outages to ordinary Ukrainians have featured prominently in state media news broadcasts.
A “very dangerous strategy”
Western and Ukrainian analysts say this signals the Kremlin’s new approach, demoralizing both Ukraine and its allies as it tries to fuel a humanitarian crisis.
“This is a new strategy, and a very dangerous one,” Volodymyr Fesenko, a Kyiv-based political analyst and head of Ukrainian think tank Penta, told NBC News.
It is primarily aimed at “demoralizing” the Ukrainian public, Fesenko said, but also at weakening Ukraine’s overall defense capability and the resolve of Ukraine’s Western partners – betting that those facing energy blackouts term will flee their towns and villages in a new wave of mass migration on a continent already strained by its own energy crisis fueled by conflict.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense also said in an assessment this week that causing widespread damage to Ukraine’s energy grid is likely the “key objective” of the Kremlin’s strike campaign.
“As Russia has suffered setbacks on the battlefield since August, it has most likely acquired a greater willingness to strike civilian infrastructure in addition to Ukrainian military targets,” the ministry said in its statement. analysis.
Fesenko said it was clear that the majority of Ukrainians responded with resilience and patience, adapting to power outages and preparing for a harsh winter ahead.
“It only increases the hatred towards Putin and the Russian invaders,” Fesenko said, adding that while the shortages won’t break Ukrainians’ fighting spirit, they could increase some people’s openness to a peace deal. peace, even bad – what Ukrainian officials said. they are not considering at the moment.
“Winter will show how people really feel,” he said. The Kremlin keeps it cold and dark.