Ukrainian braces for cold, dark winters

An employee at a gas station in Kyiv during Friday’s power outage.

As winter approaches, Alla Melnych and her neighbors race against the clock to save what little they have left.

His apartment building in Irbin was attacked in March during heavy fighting. Most of the windows are still broken, there is no roof, and the drains are burnt, meaning there is no water supply and no sewage outlet. Heavy rains in September caused even more damage, but Melnichuk is determined to make repairs.

“We’re late, we’re slowly rebuilding, we’ve bought lumber, we’re putting up the roof, but I’m not considering the option of not finishing it before winter,” he said.

As the weather turns colder, millions of Ukrainians are rushing to repair their homes and secure enough fuel to stay warm, preparing for what they know will be a harsh winter in Melnychuk.

Those problems have been exacerbated in recent weeks by Russia’s continued attacks on Ukraine’s power and heating infrastructure.

Ukraine’s Energy Agency said Kyiv had to implement “severe” and “unprecedented” emergency power cuts to avoid a “total blackout” as the capital faces a 30% power shortage. It urged residents to use electricity “sparingly”, especially during the morning and night hours, while businesses were asked to switch off lights outside offices, restaurants and malls.

Blackouts are unpredictable, which means people need to be prepared at all times. Computers and phones are charged whenever possible. Some elevators in the city’s high-rise residential buildings are equipped with emergency distribution boxes.

Driving around the city after dark is extremely dangerous; Traffic accidents have increased by 25%, police said. Stores close during power outages, and some restaurants have begun advertising “standby” menus, offering food and drinks during outages.

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To help people heat their homes, the Ukrainian government has launched a new online firewood store that makes it easier for people to find local suppliers.

Earlier this week, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk advised Ukrainian refugees not to return home this winter because the country’s fragile power grid is at risk of being completely overwhelmed.

Eden Hayes

"Wannabe gamer. Subtly charming beer buff. General pop culture trailblazer. Incurable thinker. Certified analyst."

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