KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Grabbing empty bottles in search of water, residents of Ukraine’s bombed capital crowded into cafes for power and heat Thursday, defiantly shifting into survival mode after fresh Russian missile strikes a day earlier leveled the city and the most of the country. into the darkness.
In scenes hard to believe in a sophisticated city of 3 million, some Kiev residents resorted to collecting rainwater from drain pipes as repair crews worked to reconnect utilities.
Friends and family members exchanged messages to find out who had power and water left. Some had one but not the other. Today’s airstrikes on Ukraine’s power grid left many with neither.
Cafes in Kiev, which by a small miracle had both quickly become oases of coziness on Thursday.
Oleksiy Rashchupkin, a 39-year-old investment banker, woke up to find that the water had been reconnected to his third-floor apartment, but the power had not. His freezer thawed in the blackout, leaving a puddle on the floor.
So he jumped into a taxi and crossed the Dnieper River from the left bank to the right to a cafe he had noticed had been kept open after earlier Russian strikes. Sure enough, it was serving hot drinks, hot food, and the music and Wi-Fi were on.
“I’m here because there’s warmth, coffee and light,” he said. “Here’s life.”
Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko said about 70% of the Ukrainian capital was still without power Thursday morning.
As Kiev and other cities recovered, Kherson came under its heaviest bombardment on Thursday since Ukrainian forces recaptured the southern city two weeks ago. The barrage of missiles killed four people outside a coffee shop, and a woman was also killed next to her house, witnesses who spoke to Associated Press reporters said.
In Kiev, where cold rain fell on the remnants of earlier snowfalls, 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, he should think again.
“No one will compromise their will and principles just for electricity,” said Alina Dubeiko, 34. She too sought the comfort of another, equally crowded, warm and lit cafe. Without electricity, heat and water at home, she was determined to continue her work routine. To adjust to life without its usual comforts, Dubeiko said she uses two glasses of water to wash, then catches her hair in a ponytail and is ready for her workday.
She said she would rather be without power than live with the Russian invasion, which crossed the nine-month mark Thursday.
“Without light or you? Without you,” she said, echoing remarks President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made when Russia on October 10 launched the first of what has now become a series of airstrikes on key Ukrainian infrastructure.
Western leaders condemned the bombing campaign. “Attacks against civilian infrastructure are war crimes,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov acknowledged Thursday that it targeted Ukrainian energy facilities. But he said they were linked to Ukraine’s military command and control system and the aim was to disrupt the flow of Ukrainian troops, weapons and ammunition to the front lines. Authorities for Kyiv and the wider Kyiv region reported a total of 7 people killed and dozens injured.
Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We are carrying out strikes against infrastructure in response to the unrestrained flow of arms to Ukraine and the reckless calls from Kiev to defeat Russia.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also tried to shift the blame for civilian distress onto Ukraine’s government.
“Ukraine’s leadership has every opportunity to bring the situation back to normal, has every opportunity to resolve the situation in such a way as to meet the demands of the Russian side and, consequently, end all possible suffering for the civilian population,” Peskov said. .
In Kiev, people queued at public water points to fill plastic bottles. In a strange new wartime first for her, 31-year-old Ministry of Health worker Kateryna Luchkina resorted to collecting rainwater from a drainpipe so she could at least wash her hands at work, which had no water. She filled two plastic bottles and waited patiently in the rain until they had water to the brim. A colleague followed her and did the same.
“We Ukrainians are so resourceful, we will think of something. We do not lose our spirit,” said Luchkina. “We work, live in the rhythm of survival or something, as much as possible. We do not lose hope that everything will be fine .”
The city’s mayor said on Telegram that power engineers are “doing their best” to restore electricity. Water repair teams also made progress. In the early afternoon, Klitschko announced that water supply had been restored throughout the capital, with the caveat that “some consumers may still experience low water pressure.”
Electricity, heat and water gradually came back elsewhere. In Ukraine’s southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region, the governor announced that 3,000 miners trapped underground due to power outages had been rescued. Regional authorities posted messages on social media updating people on the progress of repairs, but also said they needed time.
With the hardships in mind – both now and to come as winter progresses – authorities are opening thousands of so-called “invincibility points” – heated and powered spaces that offer hot meals, electricity and internet connections. More than 3,700 were open across the country on Thursday morning, said a senior official in the presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko.
In Kherson, hospitals without electricity and water are also struggling with the horrific aftermath of intensifying Russian strikes. They hit homes and commercial buildings Thursday, setting some on fire, blowing ash into the sky and shattering glass across the streets. Paramedics helped the injured.
Olena Zhura was carrying bread to her neighbors when a strike that destroyed half of her house injured her husband, Victor. He writhed in pain as paramedics carried him away.
“I was shocked,” she said, welling up in tears. “Then I heard (him) shouting, ‘Save me, save me.’
Mednick reported from Kherson, Ukraine.
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