Rolling blackouts across Ukraine may continue until March, according to one of the country’s energy chiefs, as Ukrainians brace for a grim winter after weeks of relentless Russian strikes against the country’s power grid.
Sergey Kovalenko, chief executive of private energy provider DTEK Yasno, said in a Facebook post late on Monday that the company is under instructions from Ukraine’s state grid operator to resume emergency blackouts in the areas it covers, including the capital, Kyiv, and the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region.
“Although there are fewer blackouts now, I want everyone to understand – most likely, Ukrainians will have to live with blackouts until at least the end of March,” Mr Kovalenko warned.
“I think we need to be prepared for different options, even the worst ones. Stock up on warm clothes, blankets, think about what will help you wait out a long shutdown,” he urged Ukrainian residents.
Russia has been pummelling Ukraine’s power grid and other infrastructure from the air for weeks, as the war approaches its nine-month milestone. That onslaught has caused widespread blackouts and deprived millions of Ukrainians of electricity, heat and water.
Temperatures commonly remain below freezing in Ukraine in the winter months. Ukrainian authorities have started evacuating civilians from recently liberated sections of the southern Kherson and Mykolaiv regions amid fears that the winter will be hard to survive.
Mr Kovalenko added that even if no more Russian strikes occur, scheduled outages will be needed across Ukraine to ensure that power is evenly distributed across the battered energy grid.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Russian missile strikes have damaged more than 50 per cent of the country’s energy facilities, and the World Health Organisation is warning that millions face a “life-threatening” winter in Ukraine.
The battle for terrain has continued unabated despite the deteriorating weather conditions, with Ukrainian forces pressing against Russian positions as part of a weeks-long counter-offensive and Moscow’s forces keeping up shelling and missile strikes.
On Tuesday morning, Ukrainian officials reported overnight shelling by Russian forces in several regions – eastern Donetsk, where the fighting is focused, northern Sumy, which borders Russia, and south-eastern Dnipropetrovsk.
In the partially occupied Donetsk region, the city of Avdiivka was most affected by the shelling, Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram.
The city was hit by several strikes overnight and a massive artillery barrage early in the morning. No casualties were reported, according to the official.
The governor of the Sumy region, Dmytro Zhyvytskiy, said a total of 86 projectiles were fired at the region overnight. The Russian forces targeted several villages with mortar fire, he said. No casualties were reported there, either.
In Dnipropetrovsk, the cities of Nikopol and Marhanets came under fire overnight, according to governor Valentyn Reznichenko, with the Russian forces firing some 60 projectiles.
No casualties were reported, and the official did not offer any details on the extent of the damage.