Ukrainians are being forced to live by candlelight after Russian air strikes have pelted down on at least 40 percent of the country’s critical infrastructure leaving people sat in darkness for hours. Russia’s brutal barrage of strikes in recent weeks has affected over 16 regions of Ukraine, with missiles deliberately targeting critical energy plants. As a result, the Government has been rushing to stabilise the grid with organised blackouts. Despite the desperate bids to rectify power to homes the attacks are relentless, with more missiles and drones raining down over Kyiv on Monday.
Pavlo Kukhta, a former energy advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, told Express.co.uk in an exclusive interview that people are “pretty p***** off” as the situation continues to worsen, but they have not completely lost all hope.
He said: “The country is already at war and it forces people to survive, survive, survive. This is not a good thing for people’s minds. The survivalist mode is not something we would want in any European country because it is not conducive to development. I don’t want Ukrainians to live with this anymore.
“As a country, we deserve better. We would be able to live better, us and everyone else in Europe, if finally this necessity to survive all the time stops. Then people can actually start living rather than surviving – creating something rather than protecting.
“Yesterday, most of the citizens of Kyiv were without power and water. Certainly, people are pretty p***** off. But we are hoping, self organisation is pretty good.”
With strikes expected to continue, it is unclear whether there is currently an end in sight. But Mr Kukhta explained that Ukraine should be able to deal with the current attacks, so long as the strikes do not become more powerful.
He explained: “The major target is electricity and will remain electricity. But as long as material keeps coming, I doubt the Russians can intensify their strikes by an order of magnitude. Their major volleys are debilitating and take down parts of the network using dozens of missiles and drones, up to 100 maybe. That is a lot.
“They have several thousand maybe overall, which is a lot. They are expending a large percentage of all their ammunition of that kind in one volley in one day. That takes down the grid for several hours, maybe in some places for a day or two, but not more as it gets repaired quickly.
“I doubt they (the Russians) can make the order of magnitude larger and fire a thousand missiles in a single day.”
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But Kyiv region Governor Oleksiy Kuleba has warned that the unpredictability of Russian strikes means there is no telling when emergency power outages will stop. He said in a telegram: “Unfortunately, the destruction and damage is serious. It is necessary to prepare for emergency power outages for an indefinite period.”
And while repairs are taking place following strikes, many regions have been forced to have their power shut off to balance the grid.
Mr Kukhta explained: “What essentially happens is that some parts of the grid will get isolated and becomes unbalanced. You need to have enough capacity to redirect the energy flows. So let’s say that temporarily a substation gets taken down and suddenly one region does not have enough capacity to get energy transmitted from the system.
“The system produces enough energy, but it won’t be able to get to that region. This means that the system operator has to take down the region and have blackouts there to balance the system in that region, even though the whole system overall in the country is operating fine.
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“Then they repair the transmission and the region gets integrated back fully into the system and gets back to normal. This leaves people without power in those regions for several hours of the day.”
This has forced many Ukrainians to take matters into their own hands while the power is down as maintenance workers scramble to make the repairs and operators balance the grid. In some areas, citizens are rushing to the supermarkets to buy everything from diesel-powered generators to candles have been, with one shop in Kyiv – Epicentr – completely selling out of large generators which can power an entire household to smaller ones suitable for a lamp.
And in Kyiv, these power cuts lasting four to five hours are becoming increasingly frequent. Street lighting on the capital’s major streets has reportedly plummeted, leaving many residents in total darkness late into the night.
But Volodymyr Kudrytskii, head of the board of Ukrenergo, the national electricity distributor, told the Christian Science Monitor that there are around 1,000 technicians, organised into 70 mobile repair teams that are working around the clock to restore the power transmission system.