Kyiv, Ukraine — Supply crews worked through the dark night of snow and freezing rain to stabilize Ukraine’s battered energy grid Thursday after another devastating wave of Russian missile attacks and restore essential services like running water and heating in many parts of the country as millions were left without Electricity.
Ukrainians have voiced opposition to Moscow’s relentless Arm the Winter campaign to weaken their resolve and force Kyiv to surrender while Russia inflicts new suffering on a war-weary nation.
Surgeons were forced to work with flashlights, thousands of miners had to be pulled from deep underground with manual winches, and people across the country were lugging buckets and water bottles up the stairs in high-rise buildings where elevators were idle.
The State Border Service of Ukraine Operation discontinued at checkpoints on the borders with Hungary and Romania on Thursday due to power outages, and Ukraine’s national rail operator reported delays and disruptions in a network that has served as the nation’s resilient lifeline through nine months of war.
Families charged their phones, warmed up and gathered information at centers set up in cities during prolonged power outages. Police in the capital Kyiv and other cities stepped up patrols as shop and restaurant owners turned on generators or lit candles and continued to work.
“The situation is difficult across the country,” said Energy Minister of Ukraine Herman Galushchenko. But by 4 a.m., he said, engineers had managed to “unify the power system” so power could be routed to critical infrastructure facilities.
In Moldova, Ukraine’s western neighbor whose Soviet-era electricity systems remain connected to Ukraine’s, the grid was largely back online after the country experienced “massive blackouts,” according to the infrastructure minister said on Twitter. “We go further, stronger and victorious,” wrote Minister Andrej Spinu.
The barrage of Russian missiles on Wednesday killed at least ten people and injured dozens, Ukrainian officials said, in what appeared to be one of the most destructive attacks in weeks. Since Oct. 10, Russia has launched around 600 rockets at power plants, hydroelectric plants, water pumping stations and treatment plants, high-voltage cables around nuclear power plants and critical substations that supply tens of millions of homes and businesses with electricity, according to Ukrainian officials.
The campaign is taking a growing toll. Wednesday’s strikes shut down all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants for the first time, depriving the country of one of its most important sources of energy.
“We assume that the nuclear power plants will be operational by the evening, so the deficit will decrease,” he said. said Galushchenko.
Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the supreme commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, said Ukraine’s air defenses shot down 51 of the 67 Russian cruise missiles and five out of 10 drones fired on Wednesday.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned what he called a Russian terror campaign at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday evening.
“When the outside temperature drops below zero and tens of millions of people are left without electricity, heat and water because Russian missiles hit energy facilities,” he said, “that is a blatant crime against humanity.”
In an interview with the Financial Times published on Thursday, Mr Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s determination to reclaim all of its territory will not be weakened by Russian attacks on its energy system.
In Kyiv, about one in four households was still without electricity as of Thursday afternoon, and more than half of the city’s residents had no running water, city officials said. Services are gradually being restored, city officials said, and they said they were confident the pumps, which supply water to around three million residents, would be restored by the end of the day.
Dmytro Saharuk, chief executive of Ukraine’s largest private energy investor DTEK, said power has been restored to about 30 percent of Kiev residents but will only be available for about two or three hours a day once the system is restored. He said all of the city’s critical infrastructure has been restored.
In the southern Black Sea port city of Odessa, transit has been suspended to focus limited energy supplies on water restoration. Services have largely been restored in the Lviv region of western Ukraine, where millions have been displaced from their homes by fighting, electricity and water.
National energy company Ukrenergo said repairs could take longer in some regions than others given the “significant damage” and difficult working conditions.
“There is no need to panic,” the utility said in a statement. Critical infrastructure would all be reconnected, it said.
Power is slowly returning to the key southern city of Mykolaiv. By 9 p.m. local time, it was restored to about half the city. The long avenues were ghostly and deserted, the street lamps were off, and in many buildings a lone light, most likely a flashlight, was burning somewhere inside. But a lot of people here didn’t seem to be out of shape.
“They want us to suffer,” said Anhelina Peresunko, a hotel manager who was sitting in a lobby lit by flickering candles on Wednesday night when the power went out. “But I’m not worried. Not at all. We charge all our power banks and our phones. We always prepare.”
Jeffrey Gettleman contributed by Mykolaiv.