Residents of Ukraine’s bombed-out capital clutched empty bottles in search of water and thronged cafes for power and heat. They defiantly switched to survival mode after new Russian missile attacks on Wednesday plunged the city and much of the country into darkness.
In the city of three million, some residents resorted to collecting rainwater from downspouts while repair crews worked to reconnect supplies.
Friends and relatives exchanged messages to find out who had electricity and water restored. Some had one but not the other.
The airstrike on Ukraine’s power grid left many with neither.
Oleksiy Rashchupkin, a 39-year-old investment banker, woke up to find that the water supply to his third-floor apartment had been restored, but the electricity supply had not. His freezer defrosted in the blackout, leaving a puddle on his floor.
So he hopped into a taxi and crossed the Dnieper River from the left bank to the right, to a café he had noticed had remained open after previous Russian attacks – sure enough, it served hot drinks and food, and the music and wifi were On.
“I’m here because there’s heating, coffee and light,” he said. “Here is life.”
Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko said about 70 percent of the Ukrainian capital was still without power Thursday morning.
As Kiev and other cities rebounded, Kherson came under the heaviest bombardment on Thursday since Ukrainian forces retook the southern city two weeks ago. The barrage of rockets killed four people outside a coffee shop and a woman was also killed next to her home, witnesses told The Associated Press news agency.
In Kiev, where cold rain fell on the remnants of previous snowfall, the mood was grim but strong. Winter promises to be long. But Ukrainians say that if Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to break them, he should think again.
“No one will compromise their will and principles just for electricity,” says Alina Dubeiko, 34. She, too, sought the comfort of another equally busy, warm and illuminated cafe. Without electricity, heating and water in the house, she was determined to keep up her work routine. Adjusting to a life stripped of the usual comforts, Dubeiko said she uses two glasses of water to wash up, then puts her hair back in a ponytail and is ready for her work day.
She said she’d rather be without power than live with the Russian invasion now a tenth month away.
“Without light or you? Without you,” she said, echoing President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s remarks when Russia unleashed the first of what has now become a series of airstrikes against key Ukrainian infrastructure on October 10.
Western leaders denounced the bombings. “Strikes against civilian infrastructure are war crimes,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov acknowledged on Thursday that it had targeted Ukrainian energy facilities. But he said they were related 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 Kiev and the wider Kiev region reported a total of seven dead and dozens injured.
Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We are carrying out attacks on infrastructure in response to the rampant flow of weapons to Ukraine and Kiev’s reckless calls to defeat Russia.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also tried to pin the blame for the deprivation of the population on the government of Ukraine.
“The leadership of Ukraine has every chance to return the situation to normal, has every chance to resolve the situation in such a way as to meet the demands of the Russian side and, accordingly, end all possible suffering of the civilian population Peskov said. .
In Kiev, people lined up at public water points to fill plastic bottles.
In a strange new wartime first for her, 31-year-old health department employee 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 for them to fill to the brim. A colleague followed her and did the same.
“We Ukrainians are so resourceful, we will come up with something. We are not losing our courage,” said Luchkina. “We work, live as much as possible in the rhythm of survival or something. 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.”
Elsewhere, too, electricity and water gradually returned. 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 to update people on the progress of repairs, but also said they needed time.
Aware of the hardships – both now and in the future, as winter progresses – authorities are opening thousands of so-called “points of invincibility” – heated and powered spaces that offer hot meals, electricity and internet connections. More than 3,700 were open nationwide on Thursday morning, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior presidential office official.
In Kherson, hospitals without power and water are also dealing with the horrific after-effects of increasing Russian attacks. They hit residential and commercial buildings on Thursday, setting some on fire, blowing ash into the air and shattering glass in the streets. Ambulance personnel assisted 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, with tears in her eyes. “Then I heard [him] screaming, ‘Save me, save me.’”