Ukraine grapples with power outages | News, Sports, Jobs

KYIV, Ukraine – The decorative candles that Yaroslav Vedmid bought over a year ago were never meant to be lit, but the dried wax that now clings to them attests to how they have been used almost every in the evenings – a consequence of power cuts across Ukraine.

Sitting at a table with his wife in a village on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, the two can’t count the number of times they’ve eaten in the dark since Russian attacks triggered blackouts from from the beginning of October. Moscow has openly declared its intention to target the country’s energy infrastructure and throw the nation into the cold.

“When you depend on electricity, the worst thing is that you can’t plan… Psychologically, it’s very uncomfortable,” said Vedmid, a 44-year-old business owner in Bilohorodka. The outages are getting longer – nearly 12 hours of outages a day, he said.

So far, Russia has destroyed around 40% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, affecting 16 regions, according to the Ukrainian government.

The latest assault came on Monday, when a massive barrage of Russian cruise missile and drone strikes hit Kyiv, Kharkiv and other cities, cutting off water and electricity in apparent retaliation for what Moscow said. characterized as a Ukrainian attack on its Black Sea Fleet.

In Kyiv, some 80% of consumers in the city of 3 million were left without water due to damage to a power plant on Monday. On Tuesday, the water was fully restored as well as part of the electricity. Kyiv Region Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said 20,000 apartments in the region remained without electricity.

Unpredictable power outages are on the rise as the government scrambles to stabilize the energy grid and repair the system before winter. The cuts add another layer of angst and uncertainty to a population already struggling with the stress of nearly nine months of war.

To try to ease people’s burdens, energy companies publish daily schedules of when neighborhoods will have no power. But this is not consistent, especially as the strikes intensify. Last week, a power plant in the central region was damaged, causing an emergency shutdown and prompting the government to warn citizens about harsher and longer outages.

“Unfortunately, the destruction and damage is serious”, Kyiv region governor Oleksiy Kuleba said in a Telegram post. “We must be prepared for emergency power outages for an indefinite period”, he said.

Across the capital, residents are stocking up on heaters, blankets, warm clothes and power banks to charge their electronics. While most say they are prepared to bear the brunt of breakdowns for the sake of war, the frequency and fluidity of breakdowns is grueling.

Starting Tuesday, the government plans to change the Kyiv Metro timetable to include longer waiting times to save energy.

On the day The Associated Press visited Vedmid’s home in October, there was an unscheduled five-hour power outage and then another scheduled over dinner.

Every time the electricity goes out, the family loses internet service. Because the village also has a weak telephone network, the household is often unable to communicate with others.

Staring at his cell phone, Vedmid shrugs. Google Maps isn’t working and he doesn’t know how long it will take to reach the station for a planned trip with his wife to the countryside.

But what concerns him most are the months ahead when temperatures could drop to minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit). “My main fears are for (the) cold part of the season, for the winter, because at the moment it influences our comfort but does not threaten our lives”, he said.

The family has ordered a generator, which should be installed by December, but demand has skyrocketed and not everyone can afford one or the fuel to run it. The price of diesel has doubled since the start of the war, local residents said.

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