In Ukraine, the specter of a winter without electricity looms large, following Russia's relentless airstrikes last year that targeted the country's power grid. This grim possibility has driven Ukrainians like Oleksandr Gindyuk, a resident of the Kyiv suburbs, to prepare for the worst.
Last winter, amidst the blackouts, Gindyuk's family faced severe hardships, especially with a newborn in the house.
Bracing for the Cold: Ukrainian Families’ Resolve
"It was quite difficult," Gindyuk recounted to CNN, emphasizing the vital role of electricity in their daily life.
"There is no life in our house if there is no electricity. Without it, we have no water, light, or heating." His preparation includes a diesel generator and a 9 kWh battery, indicative of a broader sentiment of resilience among Ukrainians.
"We are totally ready — we are not scared, we are ready," he asserted.
Ukraine's Strategic Response to Energy Threats
Ukraine has been actively working to reinforce its energy infrastructure. Last year's limited air defenses made it relatively easy for Russian forces to disrupt the energy grid.
However, Vadym Skibitsky, deputy chief of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, believes this year will be different. "The Russians may use a combination of missile weapons and attack UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones)...
It will be difficult for the Russians to achieve a result - we are also preparing and understanding how they act,” he stated. DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private energy company, plays a crucial role in this preparation.
The company, responsible for about a quarter of the nation’s electricity and managing 40% of its grid network, has been a prime target for attacks. DTEK's CEO, Maxim Timchenko, told CNN, "We restored what could be restored, bought back-up equipment, and installed defenses around power plants." He further added, "Last winter, determination carried us through.
This winter we are stronger, and our people are more experienced." DTEK’s data reveals the extent of the challenge: 1,200 attacks on Ukraine's energy system from October 2022 to April 2023, with every thermal power and hydro-electric plant in the country sustaining damage.
Despite these daunting figures, the spirit of resilience and preparedness echoes throughout Ukraine, as its people and systems brace for the winter ahead.
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