Close to 5 million Ukrainians were without power last week
By Greg Palkot
Ukraine’s KYIV – Vladimir Putin’s “cold” war against Ukraine is intensifying. Russian forces have been focusing on the infrastructure of the civilian population as their advancement on the battlefield slows. It might be Moscow’s most risky move as winter approaches and utilities such as power, heat, and water are failing.
Oleksiy Goncharenko, a Ukrainian member of parliament, said, “Militarily it’s absolutely nothing, but yes, it can cause a lot of suffering for civilians.”
The facts are in the numbers. Over the past week, nearly 5 million people nationwide and about 450,000 people in Kyiv were without power. Both 40% of the electrical grid and 80% of the power plants have suffered damage.
The word is that energy managers from the days when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union still have all the maps of the power grid, and they are feeding that information to the military side. One Kyiv official branded these Russian electrical engineers…”war criminals.”
The CEO of the biggest private utility in Ukraine, DTEK, Maxim Timchenko, said the country faces the possibility of a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
As we were reminded, everything these days is interconnected. So, if you knock out power, you also cut cellphone service, shut down gas stations, turn off refrigerators for food, close pumps for water etc.
No wonder there was a recent report Kyiv was readying plans to evacuate the entire city of 3 million if things get worse. Officials told us the story was premature, but they are taking measures.
To conserve power, officials have just announced an increase in emergency hourly blackouts. People can now access about 1000 energy hubs located throughout the city. With repair teams working around the clock, site security is increased.
Although Ukraine has done a good job of taking down Russian missiles and drones, some attacks still manage to get through. The United States and its allies have declared that they are sending more air defense systems and weapons.
Since we are located in a large backup generator-equipped hotel in Kyiv, we have so far avoided the worst of the blackouts, aside from occasional light flickering.
However, all it takes to be reminded of the impact these Russian actions are having here is to take a look at the once-bright, now-dark city, to walk the dark and perilous streets, or to hear tales from local staffers about how their homefronts are severely affected.
Additionally, no place is really safe. We went to the headquarters of DTEK CEO Timchenko to conduct our interview. An air raid alert forced us to do it in the firm’s parking garage-turned bomb shelter.
Timchenko’s message, however, was not muted. “We have no choice to defend our country and to find a solution,” he told us, “to keep the lighting on, to keep this country heated and to keep our people in the fight.”
As the temperatures here start to drop below freezing at night, their actions could not happen any sooner.
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