Ukrainians Grapple with Power Outages as Winter Approaches

Wires of an electric power line damaged by Russian military strikes are seen in a village near a frontline in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine October 28, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Wires of an electric power line damaged by Russian military strikes are seen in a village near a frontline in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine October 28, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
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Ukrainians Grapple with Power Outages as Winter Approaches

Wires of an electric power line damaged by Russian military strikes are seen in a village near a frontline in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine October 28, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Wires of an electric power line damaged by Russian military strikes are seen in a village near a frontline in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine October 28, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

The decorative candles Yaroslav Vedmid bought more than a year ago were never meant to be lit, but the dried wax that now clings to them attests to how they've been used almost nightly — a consequence of power cuts across Ukraine.

Seated at the dinner 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 the blackouts beginning in early October. Moscow has openly declared its intention to target the country’s energy infrastructure and drive the nation into the cold.

“When you’re relying 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 cuts are getting longer — nearly 12 hours of outages a day, he said.

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

The latest assault came Monday, when a massive barrage of Russian cruise missile and drone strikes hit Kyiv, Kharkiv and other cities, knocking out water and power supplies in apparent retaliation for what Moscow alleged was a Ukrainian attack on its Black Sea fleet, reported AFP.

The unpredictable rolling blackouts are increasing as the government scrambles to stabilize the energy grid and repair the system ahead of 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 are publishing daily schedules of when neighborhoods won’t have power. But it’s not consistent, especially as strikes intensify. Last week a power station in the central region was damaged, causing an emergency shutdown and prompting the government to warn citizens of tougher and longer outages.

“Unfortunately, the destruction and damage are serious,” Kyiv region Gov. Oleksiy Kuleba said in a Telegram post. “It is necessary to prepare for emergency power outages for an indefinite period,” he said.

Across the capital, residents are stocking up on heaters, blankets, warm clothing and power banks to charge electronics. While most say they’re willing to bear the brunt of the blackouts for the sake of the war, the frequency and fluidity of the outages are taxing.

Starting Tuesday, the government plans to change the schedule of the Kyiv subway to include longer wait times to save energy.

On the day that The Associated Press visited Vedmid’s house in October, there was an unscheduled five-hour power outage and then a scheduled one during dinner.
Every time the power shuts off, the family loses internet service. Because the village also has a weak phone network, the household is often unable to communicate with others.

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

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

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

Still, some have found a silver lining to the shutdowns. Vedmid’s wife, Olena, said she reads more books rather than constantly refreshing the internet to see the latest war developments. It helps her feel less anxious.

If not for Russia’s incessant shelling and the lack of repair equipment, much of which must be imported, the damage could be restored within weeks, energy experts said.
“The main danger is repeated missile attacks,” said professor Gennadii Riabtsev, chief researcher on energy security at the National Institute for Strategic Studies.

Residents of cities near the front lines, such as Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv, will suffer the most from the outages, he said.

DTEK, Ukraine’s main energy company, said it has run out of equipment for repairs. The cost of the equipment runs into hundreds of millions of dollars.

Russia is likely to continue the war into the winter, hoping to weaken Western support for Ukraine and “freeze Europe into surrender,” according to a report issued this week by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank.

Residents near the front lines say they are bracing for conditions to get worse.

Mariia Chupinina was dealing with blackouts in Kharkiv even before the rolling outages began in the region this week. The woman who fosters orphaned children lives on the fifth floor of an apartment building and takes care of four babies who are less than 12 months old. When there’s no electricity, it’s impossible to heat the apartment, and every time they leave, they have to walk down five flights of stairs in the dark, she told the AP by phone.

If Chupinina forgets to plan ahead, the babies won’t have anything to eat. “If you have not prepared, you don’t have time to fill the Thermos, and there’s no warm water or formula,” she said.



Azerbaijan Proposes Document on Principles of Peace before Full Deal with Armenia

FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev delivers a speech at the 10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev delivers a speech at the 10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov/File Photo
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Azerbaijan Proposes Document on Principles of Peace before Full Deal with Armenia

FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev delivers a speech at the 10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev delivers a speech at the 10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov/File Photo

Azerbaijan is proposing to sign a document with Armenia on the basic principles of a future peace treaty as an interim measure as they wrangle over a broader deal, a senior Azerbaijani official said on Sunday.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have repeatedly said they want to sign a peace treaty to end the conflict over the former breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, reported Reuters.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on Saturday a text of a treaty was 80%-90% ready but repeated it was impossible to sign it before Armenia amended its constitution to remove an indirect reference to Karabakh independence, which Armenia has rejected.
Karabakh's ethnic Armenian inhabitants enjoyed de facto independence from Azerbaijan for more than three decades until September 2023, when a lightning Azerbaijani offensive retook the territory and prompted around 100,000 Armenians to flee.
Both countries have in recent months sought to make progress on the peace treaty, including the demarcation of borders, with Armenia agreeing to hand over to Azerbaijan four contested border villages.
A document on the basic principles could be considered as a temporary measure and form the basis of the bilateral ties and ensure neighborly relations between the two countries, Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to the president, told Reuters.
It can be signed until Azerbaijan holds COP29 climate summit in November, Hajiyev added.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in June that a peace treaty with Azerbaijan was close to completion but that his country would not accept its demands that it change its constitution.
After he made those comments, clashes broke out between police and demonstrators, the latest in a series of protests denouncing his policies, including the handing back of ruined villages to Azerbaijan, and demanding his resignation.
On July 5, Constitution Day in Armenia, Pashinyan said the country needed a new constitution "which the people will consider to be what they created, what they accepted, what is written in it is their idea of the state they created and the relations between people and citizens in that state".