Russian Missiles Batter Ukrainian Energy Supplies and Risk Nuclear Calamity
Georgia Bennett provides an update of the targeting of various energy supplies in Ukraine by Russia, the response to it inside Ukraine and abroad as well as mentioning the ripples of issues it is causing in Eastern Europe:
Artwork by Sophie Pywell (IG: @S.louise.pywell).
In October, Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine, reported a third of the country’s energy sector had been obliterated by Russian strikes. Since then, the destruction of energy and water supplies has worsened dramatically, reaching a dire level that has left almost no thermal or hydroelectric stations functioning. This poses a deadly threat to the civilian population.
Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the chief executive officer of Ukrenergo (the principal electricity transmission system operator in Ukraine), has stated that “The scale of destruction is colossal. In Ukraine there is a power generation deficit. We cannot generate as much energy as consumers can use.”
On Thursday the 24th of November, around 70% of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, woke to a power outage amidst the harsh winter. Temperatures have fallen to sub-zero, endangering all civilians but particularly vulnerable groups such as the elderly. The missiles have also caused blackouts in many other parts of the country such as Lviv, killing ten and wounding fifty
The precarious state of energy in Ukraine has led the British Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, to announce critical practical support to aid Ukranians through the winter in a press release on Friday the 25th of November. Having travelled to Ukraine to fortify hardline British support, Cleverly also announced a further £3 million for the Partnership Fund which will rebuild indispensable infrastructure in Ukraine such as the train network, port reconstruction, airport runways and bridges. This follows the Prime Minister announcing a £50 million package of defensive military support as well as providing 35 emergency vehicles including ambulances and armoured vehicles on Saturday the 19th of November having met with President Zelensky that day.
Despite these setbacks and targeting of energy supplies, all three Ukrainian nuclear power plants are functioning again and are poised to return to their typical output only two days after the missile strikes. The source of nuclear power is crucial to Ukraine, forming half of the country’s energy supply. Russia’s targeting of nuclear power plants has led to increased concerns over nuclear accidents - that could cause disastrous fallout after this close call.
The inhumane targeting of energy and water supplies will have a devastating and widespread effect; vast numbers of civilians will be affected due to the reverse exodus in recent months that has seen many refugees returning home to Ukraine. In June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees documented that 2.6 million refugees of the 7.7 million who had left their homeland had returned to Ukraine, accounting for a third of Ukrainian refugees who will now be unsafe not only due to missiles but a lack of access to running water and heat within their homes.
The Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko told the BBC that the “worst scenario”, the city being without electricity, heat and water, could not be ruled out. Despite these drastic setbacks at the hands of Russian missiles, President Zelensky posted to social media that, “Light always prevails over darkness”. Additionally, in his nightly address on the 24th of November, the President emphasised the unity and teamwork used in fixing these issues: “Energy workers, utility workers, business – everyone is doing their part to give light again. This is truly a nationwide task – Ukraine is working as unitedly as possible in this”.
The ripples of energy outages have been felt in neighbouring countries too. The same missiles have caused blackouts across half of Moldova (according to their government). The Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita has also accused Russia of energy “blackmail”. This follows the Russian state-run Gazprom energy corporation threatening to reduce gas flows to Moldova via Ukraine beginning the week of the 28th of November. Amidst winter, this poses a great threat to the Moldovan population due to their reliance on Gazprom and Russian energy.
On the recurring damage and threat to energy infrastructure Ukraine is now facing, Hans Henri P. Kluge, the regional director for the World Health Organisation, informed journalists on Monday the 21st of November that “Put simply, this winter will be about survival”. As energy and water supply hardships continue and neighbouring political tensions strain, Zelensky’s next actions will be paramount to Ukraine’s endurance not only through the winter but in the war itself.