Ukrainian civilians participate in a military skills course in Kyiv in February 2022. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.
The year’s first snowfall descended across much of Ukraine this week, heralding months of bitterly cold weather ahead. As the temperatures continue to drop, Russia’s persistent campaign of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine’s power grid has taken its toll, spurring frequent blackouts across the country, as well as the recurrent loss of internet connectivity. Russia’s strikes have also cut millions of Ukrainians off from running water and heating.
On Friday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told reporters that Russian strikes have so far destroyed about half of Ukraine’s national power grid, marking a grim milestone ahead of winter. Ukrainian workers have managed to repair the damage fast enough to prevent a complete energy grid collapse, but the margin is narrowing, officials say, and if Russia's attacks don't relent soon the situation could become more dire.
About 10 million Ukrainians lost power following Russian missile strikes nationwide on Thursday, Nov. 17. By the following day, electricity was restored to nearly 100% of the population, reported Oleksandr Kharchenko, the director of the Energy Industry Research Center. Even so, many residents in Kyiv reported persistent power outages on Friday, Nov. 18.
Since Oct. 10, the day cruise missiles struck central Kyiv in the opening salvo of Moscow's escalated long-distance strike campaign, Russian missiles have done more damage to Ukraine's national power grid than during the preceding eight months of full-scale warfare.
Ukraine's international partners have so far pledged some $200 million to repair Ukraine's energy infrastructure, Kharchenko said.
With its invasion force retreating on multiple fronts, Moscow has resorted to a long-distance strike campaign, mainly using cruise missiles and Iranian-made exploding drones, intended to destabilize Ukraine’s economy and undermine civilian morale. The latest mass attack on Nov. 15 comprised roughly 100 missiles targeted against energy infrastructure sites across Ukraine.
Power outages have become a new staple of Ukrainians’ daily routines. Many restaurants in the capital city of Kyiv offer two menus — one for when the power is on, a second for dining during a blackout. Many other businesses have had to reschedule their office hours around planned outages. With internet connection problems becoming more common, remote work has become a headache.
Apart from the inconveniences, the unending threat of missile and drone strikes keeps people on edge. Most civilians have adapted to the danger and generally go about their normal lives — yet, they also live with the awful reality that lethal danger could appear from the sky at practically any moment.
The war’s accumulated devastation has manifested in other ways, too. For instance, about 30% of Ukraine’s national territory is now mined — an area about double the land mass of Austria.
"The area and volumes of mining in the territory of Ukraine have increased 10 times compared to the prewar period," Serhiy Kruk, head of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, said during a televised interview.
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