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Kyiv plans for blackout after missiles hit electric grid

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports | November 6, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

KYIV, Ukraine -- As they struggle to maintain an electricity grid heavily damaged by Russian missiles, officials in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, say they have begun planning for a complete blackout that would require the evacuation of the city's approximately 3 million remaining residents.

The situation is already so dire, with 40% of Ukraine's energy infrastructure damaged or destroyed, that municipal workers are setting up 1,000 heating shelters that can double as bunkers while engineers try to fix bombed-out power stations without the needed equipment.

To try to keep the grid from failing altogether, Ukraine's national energy utility announced Saturday that it would continue to impose rolling blackouts in seven regions.

The strain on Ukraine's ability to provide power is the result of the bombardment by Russian forces of critical energy infrastructure across the country, a tactic that analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin has resorted to as his troops have suffered repeated setbacks on the battlefield.

The damage caused by the Russian strikes has heaped new suffering on Ukraine's civilians and forced officials to reckon with the possibility that further damage could render them unable to provide basic services.

"We understand that if Russia continues such attacks, we may lose our entire electricity system," Roman Tkachuk, the director of security for the Kyiv municipal government, said in an interview, speaking of the city.

Officials in the capital have been told they would probably have at least 12 hours' notice that the grid was on the verge of failure. If it reaches that point, Tkachuk said, "we will start informing people and requesting them to leave."

For now at least, the situation is manageable, and there were no indications that large numbers of civilians were fleeing Kyiv, he said. But that would change quickly if the services that relied on city power stopped.

"If there's no power, there will be no water and no sewage," he said. "That's why currently the government and city administration are taking all possible measures to protect our power supply system."

As winter approaches, the city is preparing heating shelters that can also protect civilians from Russian missiles. Most are inside educational facilities, but authorities have asked that their precise locations not be reported lest they become easy targets.

In one school, the basement had been stocked with bottled water, makeshift classrooms had been set up, and a firetruck was stationed just outside the auditorium.

When Russia launched its latest barrage of more than 50 cruise missiles Oct. 31, most were shot down, Ukrainian officials said. But those that got through hit power plants and substations, immediately depriving thousands of people of power.

Another Russian strike Friday hit a facility run by the company that distributes power to people's homes. It was the 12th energy facility hit in the past month, the company said.

Across the city, engineers were working to repair the damaged electricity infrastructure, despite having no easy way to obtain the hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of equipment they would need to fully restore the network. To reduce the damage caused by future attacks, they were protecting power stations with blast walls.

Ukraine's national electric utility, Ukrenergo, confirmed Saturday the need to continue rolling blackouts, saying they were necessary to "reduce the load on the networks, ensure sustainable balancing of the power system and avoid repeated accidents after the power grids were damaged by Russian missile and drone attacks."

The cuts would affect Kyiv and its environs, and the regions of Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Kharkiv, Poltava, Sumy and Zhytomyr, the utility said.

Ukraine's Western allies have stepped up their pledges to provide the country with more air defenses. But putting them in place has been challenging, and opposition to the aid effort is bubbling up in the West as many countries face their own economic headwinds.

But U.S. and European leaders have remained unswayed.

IRAN: GAVE RUSSIA DRONES

Iran's foreign minister acknowledged Saturday for the first time that his country has supplied Russia with drones, insisting the transfer came before Moscow's war on Ukraine that has seen the Iranian-made drones divebombing Kyiv.

"We gave a limited number of drones to Russia months before the Ukraine war," Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told reporters after a meeting in Tehran.

Previously, Iranian officials had denied arming Russia in its war on Ukraine. Last week, Iran's ambassador to the U.N., Amir Saeid Iravani, called the allegations "totally unfounded" and reiterated Iran's position of neutrality in the war.

The U.S. and its Western allies on the Security Council have called on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to investigate whether Russia has used Iranian drones to attack civilians in Ukraine.

Even so, Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard has vaguely boasted of providing drones to the world's top powers. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has extolled the efficacy of the drones and mocked Western hand-wringing over their danger.

As he acknowledged the shipment, Amirabdollahian claimed on Saturday that Iran was oblivious to the use of its drones in Ukraine. He said Iran remained committed to stopping the conflict.

"If [Ukraine] has any documents in their possession that Russia used Iranian drones in Ukraine, they should provide them to us," he said. "If it is proven to us that Russia used Iranian drones in the war against Ukraine, we will not be indifferent to this issue."

RUSSIAN SHELLING KILLS 3, INJURES 8

According to Ukraine's presidential office, at least three civilians were killed and eight others were wounded over the past 24 hours by Russian shelling of nine Ukrainian regions, where drones, missiles and heavy artillery were used.

In the Russian-occupied Kherson region, where a Ukrainian counteroffensive is underway, the Russian military continue to abduct local residents, the presidential office said.

About 40 shells were fired overnight at the city of Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said on Telegram. The Russian forces targeted the city and the areas around it with heavy artillery, as they have done repeatedly since July. Two fires broke out, and more than a dozen residential and utility buildings, as well as a gas pipeline, were damaged, he said.

Elsewhere in the region, Ukrainian forces shot down a drone and another projectile, according to Reznichenko.

In the southern Mykolaiv region, the overnight shelling of rural areas damaged several houses but didn't cause any casualties, Mykolaiv Gov. Vitali Kim said on Telegram.

Russian forces also fired missiles at the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, which has been illegally annexed by Moscow and large parts of which remain occupied. According to regional Gov. Oleksandr Starukh, the attack took place shortly after midnight and damaged three businesses, as well as a number of cars.

In the eastern Donetsk region, also annexed and partially occupied by Russia, eight Ukrainian cities and villages were shelled, including Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Porkovsk.

Russian-installed authorities in Donetsk reported an attempt on the life of a Moscow-appointed judge of the region's Supreme Court.

Alexander Nikulin, who was on a judicial panel that in June sentenced to death two Britons and a Moroccan fighting for Ukraine, has been hospitalized with gunshot wounds and is in grave condition, Kremlin-backed officials said.

Information for this article was contributed by Marc Santora and Ben Hubbard of The New York Times and by Andrew Meldrum and staff members of The Associated Press.

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