KYIV, Ukraine — European officials are scrambling to help Ukraine stay warm and functioning through the bitter winter months, pledging to send more aid on Friday to the Russian military to ease its efforts to turn off the heating and lights.
Nine months after Russia attacked its neighbor, Kremlin forces zeroed out Ukraine’s power grid and other critical civilian infrastructure in a bid to clamp down on Kiev. Officials estimate that about 50% of Ukraine’s energy facilities have been damaged in recent strikes.
France will send 100 high-powered generators to Ukraine to help people in the coming months, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on Friday.
He said Russia was “weaponizing” the winter and putting Ukraine’s civilian population into trouble.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who arrives in Kiev on Friday for an unannounced visit, said a promised air defense package, estimated by Britain at 50 million pounds ($60 million), would help Ukraine defend itself against Russian bombing.
“Words are not enough. Words won’t keep the lights on this winter. Words do not protect against Russian missiles,” Cleverly said in a tweet about military aid.
The package includes radars and other technology to counter the Iranian-supplied explosive drones that Russia has used against Ukrainian targets, particularly the power grid. This is on top of the delivery of more than 1,000 anti-aircraft missiles that Britain announced earlier this month.
“As winter approaches, Russia will continue to try to break Ukrainian resolve with its brutal attacks on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure,” Cleverly said.
His visit came a day after European officials launched a program called “Generators of Hope,” which calls on more than 200 cities on the continent to donate power generators and transformers.
The generators are intended to help operate essential Ukrainian facilities, providing power to hospitals, schools and water pumping stations, as well as other infrastructure.
The generators provide only a small amount of power that Ukraine will need during the cold and dark winter months.
But the comfort and relief they provide is already evident as winter begins in earnest and power outages occur regularly. The whine and rumble of generators become commonplace, allowing shops to stay open and Ukraine’s ubiquitous cafes to continue serving hot drinks that maintain a semblance of normalcy.
Ukrainian authorities are opening thousands of so-called “points of invincibility” – heated and powered spaces offering hot meals, electricity and internet access. Ukrainian President Zelensky announced late on Thursday that almost 4,400 such spaces had opened in most of the country.
He mocked Moscow’s attempts to intimidate Ukrainian civilians, saying it was the Russian military’s only option after a series of battlefield failures. “Either energy terror, artillery terror, or missile terror – that’s all Russia has been reduced to under its current leaders,” Zelensky said.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian officials and energy workers continued to restore supplies after a nationwide flood left tens of millions of people without power and water on Wednesday.
Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said on Friday morning that the heating was back on in a third of the capital’s households, but half of the population was still without electricity.
Klitschko added on Telegram that the authorities hope to provide electricity to all consumers in Kyiv for three hours on Friday, according to the predetermined schedule.
Electricity was restored to all residents of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on Friday morning, but more than 100,000 people in the outlying region were still without power, the region’s governor said.
In the southern city of Mykolaiv, authorities said river water was starting to flow again after Russian strikes cut off supplies on Thursday.
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