Ukraine is struggling to restore power after Russian strikes left the “vast majority” of people without power

Kyiv, Ukraine

Ukraine sped up Thursday to restore power across the country, a day after Russia fired a fresh volley of missiles at critical infrastructure, causing the temporary shutdown of most of its power plants and leaving the “vast majority” of people without power.

National energy company Ukrenergo said the work had taken “longer than after previous attacks” because Wednesday’s attack targeted power generation plants and caused a “systemic incident”.

As of Thursday afternoon, power had been restored in “all regions,” but individual households were still “gradually being connected to the grid,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, an official in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, told Telegram.

Ukrainian forces said 70 Russian missiles were fired and 51 shot down Wednesday afternoon, along with five attack drones.

The attack killed at least 10 people, including a young girl, and “resulted in the temporary shutdown of all nuclear power plants and most thermal and hydroelectric power plants,” the Department of Energy said. It left much of the country without electricity, with knock-on effects on heating, water supply and internet access in some areas.

Wednesday marked the first time in 40 years that Ukraine’s four nuclear power plants were shut down simultaneously, the head of state-owned nuclear energy company Energoatom said in a statement. Petro Kotin said it was a precautionary measure and he expects they would be reconnected by Thursday evening. The three fully operational Ukrainian-owned plants — the occupied Zaporizhia plant has been out of service since September — would help power the national grid, he said.

According to the World Nuclear Association, Ukraine is heavily dependent on nuclear energy. It has 15 reactors in four plants, which generated about half of its electricity before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February.

Russia has turned its attention to destroying Ukraine’s energy infrastructure ahead of the bitter winter season, and successive waves of strikes have left much of the country facing power outages.

A view shows Lviv city center without electricity after critical civilian infrastructure was hit by Russian missile attacks on November 23, 2022.

Local residents charge their devices, use the internet connection and warm up in an emergency shelter in Kyiv on November 24, 2022.

Wednesday’s strike wreaked havoc across the country, leaving the capital Kyiv, the western city of Lviv and the entire Odessa region in darkness.

People sheltering from the airstrikes in the capital left bunkers to find their homes without electricity, desperate for a place to spend the night with friends or family. One in four households in the city was still without power as of Thursday morning. Although the water supply had been restored in all districts by the afternoon, it was still not working at full capacity due to low water pressure in high-rise buildings, Mayor Vitalii Klitschko said.

A Reuters news agency video showed people in the capital queuing in the pouring rain to fetch water from public wells.

Hospitals relied on generator power or even headlamps worn by staff while they continued to perform surgeries.

Doctors were performing heart surgery on a child at a Kyiv hospital when the power went out. Dr. Borys Todurov posted a video on Instagram showing surgeons working by the light of their headlamps while waiting for the generator to kick in.

The director of a hospital in the central Dnipropetrovsk region, across the river from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, said “tens of patients in critical condition were lying on the operating tables of the Mechnikova hospital” when the blackout hit.

“Anesthesiologists and surgeons put on searchlights to save each one of them,” said Dr. Sergii Ryzhenko wrote on Facebook. He posted a photo of two doctors, who he said were Yaroslav Medvedyk and Kseniya Denysova, operating on a 23-year-old man when the power went out – “for the first time in Yaroslav’s practice in 35 years”.

Ukrainian doctors perform an operation by torchlight in Kyiv on November 24.

Zelenskyy called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting after the attacks, which were quickly condemned by Ukraine’s allies.

The European Union announced it was preparing a ninth package of sanctions against Moscow, in which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it was an attempt to “weaken even further its ability to wage war on Ukraine”.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Russia’s attack required a response. “Ukraine was heavily shelled today, leaving much of the country without water and electricity. Strikes against civilian infrastructure are war crimes and cannot go unpunished,” he tweeted on Wednesday evening.

Poland said Wednesday the Patriot missile defense system that Germany had offered Poland should go to Ukraine instead. “Following further missile attacks (from Russia), I approached (Germany) to move the proposed (Poland) Patriot batteries to (Ukraine) and deploy them on the western border,” Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Twitter. Germany’s sacrifice for Poland came after a missile struck Polish territory near the Ukrainian border on November 15, killing two people.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Ukraine’s leaders could end the suffering by complying with Russia’s demands.

“The leadership of Ukraine has every opportunity to return the situation to normal, has every opportunity to resolve the situation in such a way that the requirements of the Russian side are met and, accordingly, any suffering of the local population is ended,” he said. Peskov said in a call with reporters.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on Thursday sent a tweet marking nine months since Russia’s February 24 invasion.

“Nine months. The length of time a child is born. In the nine months of its full-scale invasion, Russia killed and injured hundreds of our children, kidnapped thousands of them and turned millions of children into refugees,” it said.

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