Russian-Ukraine War: Ukraine Scrambles to Restore Services After Disruptive Russian Strikes

Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — Utility crews worked through the dark night under snow and freezing rain to stabilize Ukraine’s battered power grid on Thursday after another destructive wave of Russian missile strikes, restoring essential services like running water and heat. in many parts of the country even as millions lost power.

Ukrainians have voiced defiance of Moscow’s relentless campaign to arm winter in an attempt to weaken their resolve and force Kyiv to capitulate even as Russia heaps new suffering on a war-weary nation.

Surgeons were forced to work with flashlights, thousands of miners had to be pulled from deep underground with hand winches, and people from all over the country lugged buckets and bottles of water up flights of stairs in high-rise apartment buildings where elevators They stopped working.

The State Border Service of Ukraine suspended operations at checkpoints on the borders with Hungary and Romania on Thursday due to power outages and Ukraine’s national rail operator reported delays and interruptions to a network that has served as a resilient lifeline for the nation through nine months of war.

Families charged their phones, heated and collected information at the centers set up in towns and cities during prolonged power outages. Police in the capital Kyiv and other cities stepped up patrols as shop and restaurant owners lit generators or candles and kept working.

“The situation is difficult throughout the country,” said Herman Galushchenko, Ukraine’s energy minister. But by 4 am, he said, engineers had managed to “unify the power system,” allowing power to be directed to critical infrastructure facilities.

Russian missile barrage on Wednesday killed at least 10 people and injured dozens, Ukrainian officials said, in what appeared to be one of the most disruptive attacks in weeks. Since October 10, Russia has fired around 600 missiles at power plants, hydroelectric facilities, water pumping stations and treatment facilities, high-voltage cables around nuclear power plants and critical substations that bring power to tens of millions of homes. and companies, according to Ukrainian officials.

The campaign is exacting an increasing price. The strikes on Wednesday knocked out all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants for the first time, depriving the country of one of its most vital energy sources.

“We hope that the nuclear plants will start working at night, so the deficit will decrease,” Mr. Galushchenko said.

General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the top commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said Ukrainian air defenses shot down 51 of 67 Russian cruise missiles fired on Wednesday and five of 10 drones.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, Talking Wednesday night At an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, he denounced what he called a Russian campaign of terror.

“When the outside temperature drops below freezing and tens of millions of people are left without electricity, heat and water as a result of Russian missiles hitting power facilities,” he said, “that is an obvious crime against humanity.” .

In Kyiv, around one in four homes still had no power as of Thursday afternoon, and more than half of the city’s residents did not have running water, according to city officials. Service was gradually being restored, city officials said, saying they were confident pumps supplying water to some 3 million residents would be restored by the end of the day.

Transit was suspended in the southern Black Sea port city of Odessa so limited power supplies could be directed to getting the water running again. In the Lviv region of western Ukraine, where millions of people displaced from their homes by fighting, electricity and water have fled, services have been largely restored.

The national energy company, Ukrenergo, said that given the “significant amount of damage” and difficult working conditions, repairs in some regions may take longer than others.

“There is no reason to panic,” the utility company said in a statement. All critical infrastructure would be reconnected, she said.