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Kyiv residents brace for long winter as Russian strikes plunge Ukraine into darkness

Kyiv, Ukraine

Once the smoke from the latest Russian rocket strikes cleared and the sound of air raid sirens died down, many Kyiv residents came out, empty bottles in hand, to line up to get some water.

But power outages continue to plunge the city into darkness, leaving families and businesses struggling with lighting and running water.

Monday “was a tough day for everyone,” Natalia, a 60-year-old cashier at a store selling purified water, told CNN after the latest barrage of Russian airstrikes hit key infrastructure and ravaged city ​​power supply.

A backup generator provided by the owner kept his shop running for four hours as locals queued outside, until power returned in the evening. But on Tuesday, the lights went out again.

“I can’t fill the big water bottles…because the pump isn’t working,” Natalia said. “If someone comes with a small three-liter bottle, or if a mother with a child comes, then I will fill her water bottles, even if it takes time.” CNN does not use his last name and that of other interviewees at their own request.

About 80% of residents were left without running water on Monday – and many also lost power – following power outages caused by Russian strikes, the capital’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said on Telegram.

One of the strikes hit an energy installation that supplied 350,000 apartments in the capital, Klitschko said, adding that emergency services were trying to restore power and “stabilize the situation as soon as possible”.

But as temperatures drop in Ukraine, recurrent bombings from Russia are making life harder for the millions who still live in and around Kyiv – and raising fears of a harsh winter ahead.

Monday’s bombings served as yet another reminder that Kyiv is once again firmly in the grip of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Several months of ground fighting had pulled the theater of conflict into eastern Ukraine, allowing a semblance of normalcy to settle in Kyiv during the summer months. But that changed on the morning of October 10, when Moscow launched the first of a new wave of missile and rocket strikes on the city and several others across Ukraine.

For many citizens, he quickly realized that a difficult winter was coming. “Lately it’s been more crowded,” Natalia told CNN. “On October 10, we had a huge queue here. In one day we sold what we usually sell in a week.

“The situation is now very unstable, so people want to have stocks,” she said. Members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are among his clients. “They usually come once or twice a month. We give them a discount and they take a lot.

Olha, a 36-year-old teacher, regularly queues for water and ended up losing tap water at home after Monday’s attacks.

Residents of Kyiv make trench candles for the Ukrainian army.

“We didn’t have electricity, water, or even heat,” she told CNN. “We use candles and torches in the evening, in case the electricity goes out,” she said, adding that she refrains from using large appliances to help reduce the strain on the network. from the city.

A generator at her school has helped classes continue as normal, at least some of the time. “It doesn’t always work, (and) then we sit down with no light and continue to teach without light. Teachers can still teach kids using the books, the blackboards – the old fashioned way, so to speak.

His students recognize the new reality of Ukraine. “They do the designs for the soldiers, they weave camouflage nets,” she said. “In the event of an air raid (sirens), we go to the shelters and they deal with it with understanding; they are no longer afraid.

Sometimes teachers continue lessons inside their school shelters. On other occasions, the students sing songs or chat, she says. Public schools have mostly held classes online since October 10.

For Natalia and Olha, like so many others in Kyiv, the impact of the Russian airstrikes does not end when they leave work.

“We also experience power outages at home,” Natalia said. “I can’t cook or reheat food. And it’s cold now, (so) I prefer to eat a hot meal or drink tea.

The temperature in the capital hasn’t reached the depths felt in winter – “it’s okay for now, we can handle it”, says Natalia – but from November to March the mercury often dips below zero.

Authorities in Kyiv are trying to prepare, preparing about 1,000 “heating points” in schools, kindergartens and other sites across the city in case of an emergency, Klitschko said on Tuesday.

“We are considering various scenarios for how events might develop. The worst scenario is when there will be no electricity, water and heating at all,” the mayor said on the “Kyiv” television channel, according to a statement from the city council.

Viktoria, a 48-year-old manager at a lamp store, says people started asking to buy battery-operated light sources to help with blackouts – despite her store having none to offer.

“Since the beginning of these massive attacks on critical infrastructure, we have had power cuts daily, sometimes even twice a day. It’s usually until 4 a.m.,” she told CNN.

The pace of ground warfare could slow as frost blankets the landscape of eastern Ukraine in the coming months, military analysts predict, but attacks on Ukraine’s power grid mean the impact of the war will rage in living rooms and workspaces across the country.

“The barbarians are attacking our energy,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week after another day of strikes. “But I’m sure we’ll walk through this darkness bravely and with dignity.”

Zelensky has led efforts to secure international aid as his country prepares for a cold and painful winter. On Tuesday, he met with the European Commission’s top energy official in Kyiv to discuss plans to boost the country’s resources.

He spoke in detail about Ukraine’s energy infrastructure restoration needs and called on the European Commission to play a coordinating role in attracting help from EU member states, according to a statement from his office.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has requested EU assistance to bolster Ukraine's resources this winter.

French President Emmanuel Macron meanwhile told Zelensky that Paris would help Ukraine get through the winter, according to a reading of the appeal released by the Elysee Palace.

On the streets of Kyiv, residents are united in expecting a tough new phase of the conflict as winter sets in. But many are prepared and remain focused on a single result.

“We are used to it now. It’s a necessity. What matters is our victory,” said Viktoria.

This challenge is widely shared across Kyiv.

“I’m not negative about this situation,” Olha said as she stood in line for water. “If it is really necessary, we will join.”

“We have been experiencing daily power cuts of four to five hours for quite some time now,” added Arzu, a 25-year-old cashier at a post office. “We have already learned to adapt. We continue to work.

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