KYIV, Ukraine — Residents of Ukraine’s bombed capital clutched empty bottles in search of water and crowded into cafes for electricity and heat on Thursday, defiantly going into survival mode after more Russian rocket attacks plunged the city and much of the country into darkness a day earlier.
In scenes hard to believe in the sophisticated city of 3 million, some Kiev residents collected rainwater from drainpipes as repair crews struggled to turn the supply back on.
Friends and family exchanged messages to find out who had power and water restored. Some had one but not the other. The previous day’s aerial attack on Ukraine’s electrical grid left many people with none.
The cafes in Kiev, which miraculously both became oases of comfort on Thursday.
Oleksiy Raschupkin, a 39-year-old investment banker, woke up to find that the water had been turned on in his third-floor apartment, but not the electricity. Her freezer had melted in the power outage, leaving a puddle on the floor.
So he jumped into a taxi and crossed the Dnieper River from the left bank to the right, to a cafe he noticed remained open after the earlier Russian strikes. Indeed, it served hot drinks, hot food, music and Wi-Fi were on.
“I’m here because there’s heat, coffee and light,” he said. “This is life.”
Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said that about 70% of the Ukrainian capital was still without power on Thursday morning.
As Kyiv and other cities rallied, Kherson was hit Thursday by the heaviest bombardment since Ukrainian forces retook the southern city two weeks ago. The explosion of the rockets killed four people outside a cafe and a woman was also killed near her house, witnesses told The Associated Press reporters.
In Kiev, where cold rain fell on the remnants of previous snowfalls, the mood was gloomy but steely. Winter promises to be long. But Ukrainians say that if Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to break them, he should think again.
“No one will compromise their will and principles just for electricity,” said Alina Dubeiko (34). He, too, sought the comfort of another equally crowded, warm, and well-lit cafe. With no electricity, heat or water at home, he decided to stick to his work routine. Dubeiko, who has adapted to a life deprived of the usual comforts, said she uses two glasses of water to wash, then puts her hair in a ponytail and is ready for her day at work.
He said he would rather be without power than live with the Russian invasion, which crossed the nine-month mark on Thursday.
“Are you without light? Without you,” he said, echoing President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks when Russia launched its first series of airstrikes against key Ukrainian infrastructure on October 10.
Western leaders condemned the bombing. “Strikes against civilian infrastructure are war crimes,” tweeted French President Emmanuel Macron.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konasenkov admitted on Thursday that it had targeted Ukrainian energy facilities. But he said they were linked to Ukraine’s military command and control system and aimed at disrupting the flow of Ukrainian troops, weapons and ammunition to the front lines. Authorities in Kyiv and the wider Kyiv region reported a total of 7 deaths and dozens of injuries.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said: “We are conducting a strike against infrastructure in response to the unrestrained flow of arms to Ukraine and Kyiv’s reckless call to defeat Russia.”
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, also wanted to shift the blame for the civil hardship to the Ukrainian government.
“The Ukrainian leadership has every opportunity to bring the situation back to normal, it has every opportunity to settle the situation in a way that meets the demands of the Russian side and, accordingly, ends all possible suffering of the civilian population,” Peskov said. . .
In Kyiv, people queued at public water stations to fill plastic bottles. During a strange new war, Kateryna Luchkina, a 31-year-old employee of the health department, first collected rainwater from a drain pipe to at least wash her hands at her workplace, where there was no water. He filled two plastic bottles and waited patiently in the rain until they were full of water. A colleague followed him and did the same.
“We Ukrainians are so resourceful that we think of something. We will not lose our spirit,” said Luchkina. “We work as much as we can, we live in the rhythm of survival or something like that. We’re not losing hope that everything will be okay.”
The city’s mayor said on Telegram that energy engineers are “doing everything” to restore power. The water improvement teams were also making progress. In the early afternoon, Klitschko announced that water had been restored in the capital, warning that “some customers may still experience low water pressure”.
Electricity, heat and water gradually returned elsewhere. In the Dnipropetrovsk region of southeastern Ukraine, the governor announced that three thousand miners who were trapped underground due to a power outage had been rescued. Regional authorities posted messages on social media informing people of the progress of repairs, but also said they needed time.
Mindful of the challenges – both now and ahead as winter progresses – authorities are opening thousands of so-called “invincibility points” – heated and powered spaces that offer hot meals, electricity and internet access. As of Thursday morning, more than 3,700 were open across the country, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official in the presidential office.
In Herson, the hospitals operating without electricity and water are also struggling with the terrible after-effects of the intensifying Russian strikes. On Thursday, residential and commercial buildings were raided, some were set on fire, ash was blown into the sky and glass was broken in the streets. Ambulances helped the injured.
Olena Zhura was taking bread to her neighbors when the strike that destroyed half of her house injured her husband Victor. He writhed in pain as the paramedics carried him away.
“I was shocked,” she said through tears. “Then I heard (her) yelling, ‘Save me, save me.’
Mednick reported from Kherson, Ukraine.
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