KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Residents of Ukraine’s bombed-out but fearless capital grabbed empty bottles in search of water and crowded into cafes for electricity and heat on Thursday, defiantly passing in survival mode after new Russian missile strikes the day before plunged the city and much of the country into darkness.
In hard-to-believe scenes in a sophisticated city of 3 million, some Kyiv residents resorted to collecting rainwater from drainpipes as repair crews scrambled to reconnect the supplies.
Friends and family members exchanged messages to find out who had collected electricity and water. Some had one but not the other. The previous day’s aerial assault on Ukraine’s power grid left no one without either.
The cafes of Kyiv which, by a small miracle, had both quickly become oases of comfort on Thursday.
Oleksiy Rashchupkin, a 39-year-old investment banker, woke up to find water had been reconnected to his third-floor apartment, but electricity had not. Her freezer thawed in the blackout, leaving a puddle of water on her floor.
So he jumped into a taxi and crossed the Dnieper from the left bank to the right, to a cafe he had noticed had remained open after previous Russian strikes. Sure enough, it was open, serving hot drinks, hot food, and with music and WiFi on.
“I am here because there is heating, coffee and light,” he says. “Here is life.”
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said around 70% of Ukraine’s capital was still without power as of Thursday morning.
With cold rain falling and remnants of a previous snowfall still on the streets, the mood was somber but steely. The winter promises to be long. But Ukrainians say that if Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intention is to break them, then he should think again.
“No one will compromise their will and their principles just for electricity,” said Alina Dubeiko, 34. She, too, sought the comfort of another cafe that was just as crowded, warm and bright. Without electricity, heating and water at home, she was determined to maintain her work routine. Adjusting to the privacy of her usual comforts, Dubeiko said she uses two glasses of water to wash herself, then ties her hair in a ponytail and is ready for her day at work.
She said she would rather live without electricity than live with the Russian invasion, which passed the nine-month mark on Thursday.
“Without light or you? Without you,” she said, echoing words spoken by President Volodymyr Zelenskky when Russia on October 10 unleashed the first of what has now become a series of aerial attacks on key Ukrainian infrastructure.
Western leaders denounced the bombing campaign. “Strikes against civilian infrastructure are war crimes,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday sought to blame the civil difficulties on the Ukrainian government.
“The leadership of Ukraine has every chance to bring the situation back to normal, has every chance to resolve the situation in such a way as to meet the demands of the Russian side and, therefore, to put an end to all possible suffering of the population civil,” Peskov said. .
Meanwhile, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has issued an urgent appeal to Belarusians not to be drawn into war, warning that Russian special services are preparing “provocations” against critical infrastructure, including Ostrovets nuclear power plant.
“Ukraine does not consider your country, especially your people, as an enemy, and we do not plan to carry out aggressive actions on the territory of the Republic of Belarus,” the General Staff said in a statement on Thursday. a statement.
In Kyiv, people lined up outside public water points to fill plastic bottles. In a new and strange wartime first for her, Kateryna Luchkina, a 31-year-old health department employee, resorted to collecting rainwater from a drainpipe, so that she could at least wash her hands at work, which had no water. She filled two plastic bottles, waiting patiently in the rain until they were full of water. A colleague followed her doing the same.
“We Ukrainians are so resourceful, we will think of something. We don’t lose our minds,” Luchkina said. “We work, live at survival pace or something, as much as possible. We do not lose hope that everything will be fine. »
The mayor said on Telegram that electrical engineers are “doing their best” to restore power. Water repair crews were also advancing. In the early afternoon, Klitschko announced that water supplies had been restored across the capital, with the warning that “some consumers may still experience low water pressure”.
Electricity, heating and water were gradually returning elsewhere as well. In the Dnipropetrovsk region of southeastern Ukraine, the governor announced that 3,000 miners trapped underground due to power outages had been rescued. Regional authorities posted messages on social media notifying people of the progress of repairs, but also saying they needed time.
Aware of the difficulties – current and future, as winter progresses – authorities are opening thousands of so-called “invincibility points” – heated and powered spaces offering hot meals, electricity and internet connections. More than 3,700 were open across the country Thursday morning, said senior presidential office official Kyrylo Tymoshenko.
In the southern city of Kherson, retaken two weeks ago by Ukrainian forces, the struggle of hospitals with the loss of electricity and water is worsened by the intensification of Russian strikes.
Olena Zhura was carrying bread to her neighbors on Thursday when a strike that destroyed half her home in Kherson injured her husband Victor. Paramedics took Victor away as he was writhing in pain.
“I was shocked,” she said, crying. “Then I heard him scream, ‘Save me, save me.
AP reporter Sam Mednick in Kherson, Ukraine, contributed.
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