KYIV, Nov. 25 (AP) European officials are scrambling to help Ukraine stay warm and continue to function during the bitter winter months, pledging Friday to send more support to cushion the Russian military’s efforts to turn off the heat and lights.
Nine months after Russia invaded its neighbor, Kremlin forces have targeted Ukraine’s power grid and other critical civilian infrastructure in an attempt to tighten the screw on Kyiv.
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Officials estimate that about 50 percent of Ukraine’s energy facilities have been damaged in recent strikes.
France is sending 100 high-powered generators to Ukraine to help people get through the coming months, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on Friday.
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He said Russia is “weaponizing” the winter and plunging Ukraine’s civilian population into hardship.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who arrived in Kyiv on Friday for an unannounced visit, said a promised air defense package, which Britain valued at 50 million pounds ($60 million) , would help Ukraine defend itself against Russian bombing.
“Words are not enough. Words won’t keep the lights on this winter. Words will not defend against Russian missiles,” Cleverly said in a tweet about military aid.
The package includes radar and other technology to counter explosive Iranian-supplied drones that Russia has used against Ukrainian targets, particularly the power grid. It comes in addition to the delivery of more than 1,000 anti-aircraft missiles that Britain announced earlier this month.
“As winter approaches, Russia continues to try to break Ukraine’s resolve through its brutal attacks on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure,” Cleverly said.
His visit came a day after European officials launched a program called “Generators of Hope,” which calls on more than 200 cities across the continent to donate electricity generators and transformers.
The generators are intended to help keep Ukraine’s essential facilities running, providing power to hospitals, schools and water pumping stations, among other infrastructure.
The generators can provide only a small amount of the energy Ukraine will need during the cold, dark winter months.
But the comfort and relief they provide is already evident as winter begins in earnest and power cuts occur regularly. The whine and noise of generators are becoming commonplace, allowing stores that have them to remain open and Ukraine’s ubiquitous coffee shops to continue serving hot drinks that maintain a semblance of normality.
Ukrainian authorities are opening thousands of so-called “invincibility points” – heated and electric spaces that offer hot meals, electricity and Internet connections.
Ukrainian President Zelensky said late Thursday that nearly 4,400 such spaces have been opened across most of the country.
He mocked Moscow’s attempts to intimidate Ukrainian civilians, saying it was the Russian military’s only option after a series of setbacks on the battlefield.
“Energy terror, artillery terror or missile terror, that’s all Russia has been reduced to under its current leaders,” Zelenskyy said.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian officials and energy workers continued their push to restore supplies after bombing across the country on Wednesday left tens of millions without power and water.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Friday morning that the heating had been turned back on in a third of the capital’s homes, but that half of its population was still without electricity.
Writing on Telegram, Klitschko added that the authorities hoped to provide electricity to all consumers in Kyiv for a period of three hours on Friday, following a pre-set schedule.
By Friday morning in Kharkiv, electricity had been restored to all residents of Ukraine’s second-largest city, but more than 100,000 in the outlying region continued to see outages, the regional governor said.
In the south, authorities in the city of Mykolayiv said running water should start flowing again after the supply was cut by Russian strikes on Thursday. (AP)
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