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How Kyiv copes with blackouts | Russian-Ukrainian War News


Kyiv, Ukraine – Lyubov Fedorchenko says that it gets dark so early that it can feel like living in a bygone era.

“I never understood my grandmother saying they would go to bed after sunset,” the owner of a four-bedroom house in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv told Al Jazeera.

“But these days, we live like hamsters. When it gets dark, we go to bed”.

Fedorchenko’s ill-timed numbers are the result of major power cuts since October 10, when Russian bombs began to fall on cities across Ukraine in the latest phase of the months-long war.

A series of missile and drone attacks have targeted power transmission systems and water pumping stations, heating facilities and other critical infrastructure, causing damage to the grid. electricity of the country and forced the authorities to impose restrictions on energy use.

Millions of Ukrainians depend on damaged or destroyed infrastructure during the winter, when temperatures drop below zero – and the lack of central heating can have dire consequences.

“As winter approaches, Russian leaders deliberately deprive people of basic things: water, electricity, heat,” Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said earlier this week. “This is terrorism and a war crime.”

The Kremlin denied it targeted civilian sites, but did not rule out more attacks.

“That’s not all we can do,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on October 31.

‘The sky is dark as ink’

In western Kyiv, Polina Shevchenko shares a two-bedroom apartment with her boyfriend Evhen Denisenko and Freeda, their nine-month-old daughter.

Frequent but unscheduled and hour-long power outages have affected their lives.

Washing dishes and laundry needs to be timed to the power-on time.

Polina Shevchenko and her dog Freeda
[Do not use] Polina Shevchenko and her dog Freeda [Courtesy Polina Shevchenko/Al Jazeera]

After every walk with Freeda, the dog’s paws need to be washed – but the water supply relies on electricity, so Shevchenko uses a pitcher and bottle to refill the water.

At night, the couple often watches one of the many movies they’ve downloaded or switches to their vastly expanded collection of board games.

Shevchenko understands that their problems pale in comparison to those experienced by millions of other Ukrainians since the Russian invasion began in late February.

“There are people who feel much worse,” she said. “Those who have no electricity, no water, or on the front lines.”

Denisenko, a 30-year-old IT professional working from home, had to shell out $1,000 for a spare battery – a hard-to-find item in today’s war-torn Ukraine – that can be connected to a computer his laptop and the three computer monitors he uses for his work.

Shevchenko, meanwhile, goes to the Kyiv center to work as a tutor. The evening walk to the subway station can be fraught with existential horrors, she laments.

“It is as dark as ink and [air raid] She said.

With no electricity and street lights, apartment buildings and shopping malls loom in post-apocalyptic black, and only the small halos of cell phone flashlights show pedestrians cautious walking on the roads. the road is full of potholes.

Drivers can hardly see people without flashlights or wearing black, while traffic lights are off creating chaos.

Taxi driver Oleksander Glushchenko said: “You go through an intersection with a prayer.

New ways to gain strength

In some cases, however, a power outage activates creativity.

Diana Maslennikova said her husband figured out how to connect their car batteries to the electricity grid of their 15th-floor apartment in central Kyiv. The voltage is not enough to fuel the refrigerator or washing machine, but the energy-saving bulbs are still on.

“Now, he spreads this amazing knowledge,” says Maslennikova, a manual therapist who receives patients at home.

Meanwhile, when a woman was trapped in an apartment building’s blackout elevator, neighbors got her out in time – and put out emergency boxes in each of the three elevators. building. They contain an empty jar for emergency relief; candles and flashlights; snacks and a platform to sit on.

The height of the building means that Maslennikova often witnesses death and destruction as rockets and drones land in the surrounding areas.

On October 17, she saw what Ukrainian officials say was an Iranian-made kamikaze drone that had crashed into a five-story building next to the train station where her son’s friend lived.

The friend was out – but his grandmother was among the five people killed in the attack, she said.

With each power outage, Maslennikova has a new problem – from the patient’s unwillingness to climb the stairs to her apartment to the sudden disruption of cooking.

However, she joked, there is one family member who has benefited from the new lifestyle: their cat, which is more pampered today than before.

Maslennikova said: “It’s amazing how much attention is being paid to it.

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