Ukraine extends blackouts as Russian bombings continue

Ukraine extends blackouts as Russian bombings continue

2 hours agoBy Jean Mackenzie, BBC NewsGetty Images

Ukrainians are facing extended blackouts of up to eight hours on Wednesday, as their country grapples with severe damage to its power stations, caused by ongoing Russian attacks.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking on Tuesday at a conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine, said Russia had destroyed half of his country’s electricity-generating capacity, since it began pummelling its energy facilities in late March.

Residents in the capital Kyiv, with a population of three million, are facing some of the most significant power shortages. The hum of generators reverberates though the city, while at night streets are now often coated in darkness.

Families with young children living on the top floors of apartment blocks have been left without working lifts, leaving them to walk up dozens of flights of stairs, sometimes with young children.

Ukraine is buying energy from the European Union to try to cover its shortfall. Its energy ministry said it was planning on Wednesday to import its largest amount of power to date. However, this is not enough to make up its deficit, meaning nationwide power cuts have been planned during an eight-hour window, from 3pm to 11pm, in order to protect critical infrastructure such a hospitals and military facilities.

The situation is expected to worsen as summer temperatures climb and people turn on their air-conditioning units.

If Russia continues to attack power plants, the worst-case scenario is that come winter Ukrainians could be spending up to 20 hours a day without power and heating. Part of the issue is that Ukraine’s thermal and hydroelectric power stations are difficult and expensive to fix.

“Some will take years to repair, and others might never be brought back online” said Maria Tsaturian from Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s national energy operator.

Overnight, Russia launched missile and drone attacks across Ukraine, including on the capital Kyiv, where the blasting sound of air defences could be heard in the early hours of the morning.

The head of Kyiv’s military, Serhiy Popko, said nothing had got past the city’s air defence systems. However, an energy facility in the north-eastern Sumy region was damaged in the attack.

Oleg Strilka, from Sumy’s State Emergency Service, told the BBC that one of the effects of such prolonged power cuts was that people were plugging in all their electrical devices at the same time once the electricity returned, causing fires. “Over the past month we have been rescuing children and the elderly from smoke-filled homes,” he said.

Mr Zelensky has told Western countries he needs another seven sophisticated air defence systems, called Patriots, in order to protect Ukraine’s cities and energy infrastructure. According to US media, Washington has agreed to send another such system to Ukraine in the coming days.

The Ukrainian government is preparing for a global peace summit being held in Switzerland this weekend, which aims to bring together as many countries as possible in support of its 10-point peace plan, which hinges around Russia withdrawing from all Ukrainian territory. Critically Russia has not been invited, and influential counties including China, and possibly Brazil and South Africa, will not be attending.

Recognising the limitations of the conference, President Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said yesterday that Ukraine hoped to first build a broad platform of support, before then exploring the possibility of holding a second summit, which Russia would be invited to.


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