Ukrainians learn new tricks to counter Putin’s energy attacks and swear ‘we’ll never give up’ | world news

The interior light of a car shimmered in the dark next to a cluster of tall apartment buildings in the Ukrainian city of Odessa.

A young couple, wrapped in furry dressing gowns over layers of clothing, sat in the front seats, charging their cellphones and enjoying a brief respite from the cold.

Oleh Yaskovets and Natallia Bovkush said they had had no electricity in their home for nearly two days following Russian drone strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

When asked how they were feeling, the couple laughed as they considered their predicament.

“Things are not going well,” said Oleh, 28, behind the wheel. “Everything is wet in our apartment due to condensation.”

His wife, 24, in her bright pink dressing gown, said: “It’s 14-15 degrees inside. That’s why it’s cozier in our car and a bit warmer.”

People use their cars to keep warm

Russia has launched 15 Iranian-made suicide drones – so-called because they explode on impact – at power infrastructure in this port city and surrounding southern Odessa region Ukraine overnight until Saturday, according to President Zelenskyy.

He said his country’s defenses managed to shoot down 10, but five hit their targets, initially leaving some 1.5 million people without power.

Engineers worked all weekend trying to repair the damage.

On Sunday evening, the lights came back on in much of downtown Odessa.

Breakdown in Odessa, Ukraine
A residential area of ​​Odessa in complete darkness following a drone attack

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But a number of residential areas towards the outskirts remained in complete darkness – with streetlights and even traffic lights turned off.

Much of the country, including Odessa, is already experiencing power cuts at set times throughout the day to preserve the limited power available following waves of Russian strikes on power plants, substations and power lines since October.

After setbacks on the battlefield, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems determined to break Ukraine’s resistance in a less conventional way – by cutting off heat, light and water.

His forces used a combination of missile strikes and swarms of Iranian unmanned aircraft to penetrate Ukrainian air defenses.

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Drone strikes appeared to stop late last month after Russia exhausted its stocks. But they have started up again in recent days, with the UK warning that the Kremlin has likely received a resupply from Iran.

These energetic attacks left entire cities, towns and villages – far from the front lines of war – in cloaks of darkness for several hours at a time.

It was striking to see the difference in living conditions now compared to the last time I was in Ukraine in September – even the capital Kyiv has not escaped the impact

But Ukrainian engineers are working around the clock to fight back in the only way possible: by repairing the damage.

Ordinary people, too, are building resilience and learning to adapt – wearing lots of layers, using torches and candles, and stocking up on bottled water.

They also know to try to do as much as possible when the power comes back on to reduce the impact on daily life, such as work and study, when it goes out again.

Blackout in Odessa, Ukraine - people charge their phones at "invincibility points" – dedicated buildings such as stations, schools and other facilities with a more guaranteed electricity and heat supply
Residents use ‘invincibility points’ – buildings with a more robust power supply

Authorities have created “points of invincibility” – dedicated buildings such as stations, schools and other facilities with a more guaranteed supply of electricity and heat.

Locals can head to these places to hook up, warm up, and have a cup of tea.

We visited an invincibility point at a fire station in Odessa.

Iryna Kryvonos, 44, said she and her family – her husband, 47, and their two sons, aged 20 and 8 – had been without power in their apartment for four days and more. They learned new tricks to survive.

Smiling, Iryna, a teacher, said, “We’re here warm with hot tea, charging our gadgets. We’re even trying to play cards at home with candles.”

While people remain defiant, blackouts – unlike the more predictable planned blackouts – are a new level of difficulty and could turn an already trying situation into a wider humanitarian crisis when temperatures drop over the winter.

People everywhere in Odessa expected the worst to come from Russia. But they swore never to surrender.

Anjelina Kartashova and Pavlo Kartashov, in their 50s, used torches to get to the entrance of their building.

“Everyone will survive in any way they can,” Anjelina said. “We are waiting for the victory and then everything will be fine.”

Her husband added: “We’ll just put on warmer clothes, but we’ll never give up. Ukrainians don’t give up!


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