JOHN LEICESTER, HANNA ARHIROVA and SAM MEDNICK (Associated Press)
Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — Residents of Ukraine’s b*mbed-out capital clutched empty bottles for water and flocked to coffee shops for power and warmth Thursday, switching defiantly into survival mode after new Russian missile att*cks the day before plunged the city and significant part of the country in darkness.
In scenes that are hard to believe in the sophisticated city of 3 million, some Kyiv residents resorted to harvesting rainwater from sewer pipes while repair crews worked to restore supplies.
Friends and family members exchanged messages to find out who got their electricity and water back. Some had one but not the other. The previous day’s air att*ck on the Ukrainian power grid left many without any of them.
Cafes in Kiev, which by some small miracle quickly became oases of comfort 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 electricity was not. His freezer thawed during a power outage, leaving a puddle on the floor.
So he jumped in a taxi and crossed the Dnieper from the left bank to the right bank, to a coffee shop he noticed had been open after previous Russian air raids. Indeed, hot drinks were served, hot food, and music and Wi-Fi were on.
“I’m here because there’s heating, coffee and light,” he said. “Here is life.”
Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said that around 70% of the Ukrainian capital was still without electricity on Thursday morning.
As Kyiv and other cities recovered, Kherson came under the heaviest b*mbardment on Thursday since Ukrainian forces recaptured that southern city two weeks ago. A hail of bullets killed four people outside the coffee shop, and a woman was also killed next to her home, witnesses said, speaking to Associated Press reporters.
In Kiev, where a cold rain fell on the remnants of the previous snowfall, the mood was gloomy but steely. Winter promises to be a long one. But Ukrainians say that if Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intention is to break them, he should reconsider.
“No one will compromise their will and principles just for electricity,” said 34-year-old Alina Dubeiko. She, too, sought comfort in another equally crowded, warm, and lit cafe. Without electricity, heating or water at home, she was determined to continue her routine. Adapting to a life devoid of the usual comforts, Dubeiko said she uses two glasses of water to wash, then puts her hair in a ponytail and is ready to go.
She said she’d rather be without electricity than live with the Russian invasion, which went over nine months on Thursday.
“Without light or you? Without you,” she said, echoing President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks as Russia unleashed the first in a series of airstrikes on key Ukrainian infrastructure on October 10.
Western leaders condemned the b*mbing campaign. “Strikes against civilian infrastructure are war crimes,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.
The spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, admitted on Thursday that Ukrainian energy facilities were the target of the att*cks. However, he said that they are linked to Ukraine’s military command and control system and that the goal is to disrupt the flows of Ukrainian troops, weapons and ammunition to the front lines. Authorities in Kyiv and the entire Kyiv region reported a total of 7 dead and dozens injured.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, said: “We are conducting att*cks on infrastructure in response to Ukraine’s unbridled arms flow and Kiev’s reckless appeals to defeat Russia.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also sought to shift the blame for the civil difficulties onto the Ukrainian government.
“The leadership of Ukraine has every opportunity to return the situation to normal, it has every opportunity to resolve the situation in such a way as to meet the demands of the Russian side, and thus put an end to all possible suffering of the civilian population,” Peskov said. .
In Kiev, people lined up at public water stations to fill plastic bottles. In a strange time of war, new to her, 31-year-old employee of the Health Department, Kateryna Łuczkina, resorted to collecting rainwater from the gutter to at least wash her hands at work where there was no water. She filled two plastic bottles, patiently waiting in the rain for them to fill to the brim with water. The friend followed her, doing the same.
“We Ukrainians are so resourceful that we will come up with something. We are not losing heart,” Luchkina said. “We work, we live in the rhythm of survival or something like that, as much as we can. We don’t lose hope that everything will be fine.”
The city’s mayor said on Telegram that energy engineers were “doing everything they can” to restore electricity. Water repair crews were also making progress. In the early afternoon, Klitschko announced that water supplies had been restored across the capital, with the caveat that “some consumers may still experience low water pressure.”
Energy, heat and water gradually returned elsewhere as well. In Ukraine’s southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region, the governor announced that 3,000 miners trapped underground due to power outages had been rescued. The regional authority posted messages on social media notifying people of the progress of the repairs, but also saying they needed time.
Mindful of the hardships now and in the future as winter progresses, authorities are opening thousands of so-called “points of invincibility” – heated and powered rooms with hot meals, electricity and internet connections. More than 3,700 were open across the country on Thursday morning, a senior official in the president’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said.
In Kherson, hospitals without electricity or water are also grappling with the gruesome effects of intensifying Russian airstrikes. On Thursday, they hit residential and commercial buildings, setting some on fire, throwing ashes into the sky and shattering glass in 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 Wiktor. He writhed in pain as paramedics carried him away.
“I was in shock,” she said, bursting into tears. “Then I heard (him) screaming, ‘Save me, save me.’
Mednick reported from Kherson, Ukraine.
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