UKRAINE: President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians to conserve electricity amid ongoing Russian strikes that have reduced the country’s power capacity in half, as the World Health Organization has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine this winter.
Authorities warned that millions of Ukrainians, including those in the capital Kyiv, may endure power disruptions until the end of March as a result of the missile attacks, which Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s national grid operator, described as having inflicted “colossal” damage.
In recent weeks, Russia’s missile attacks have targeted the energy infrastructure of Ukraine, including electricity and water stations, leaving blackouts across the country as winter approaches. Because of the extensive blackouts that resulted, the health problem has gotten worse.
WHO regional director for Europe, Hans Henri P. Kluge, said, “Half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is either damaged or destroyed.” This is already having knock-on effects on the health system and on people’s health.
At a news conference in Kyiv, he cautioned that “this winter will be about survival,” adding that 10 million Ukrainians are presently without power.
The WHO estimated that up to three million Ukrainians would leave their homes in search of warmth and security.
In some areas of the nation, temperatures are expected to drop as low as -20 Celsius (-4F).
Darkest days of Ukrainians
This winter will be “a formidable test for the Ukrainian health system and the Ukrainian people” due to the “devastating energy situation, the deepening mental health catastrophe, restrictions on humanitarian access, and the risk of virus illnesses,” Kluge warned.
“They will face unique health concerns, such as respiratory infections like COVID-19, pneumonia, influenza, and the severe risk of diphtheria and measles in [an] under-vaccinated population,” he continued.
Since the invasion by Russia started in late February, the WHO has recorded more than 700 attacks on the health infrastructure.
Russia unleashed one of its largest aerial bombardments last week against additional energy facilities since it started its conflict with Ukraine.
Following defeats on the battlefield, this has been a recent Russian tactic, and the effect is becoming more pronounced as the temperature drops.
In the earlier part of this week, shelling at the nuclear power station in Zaporizhzhia resumed.
For attacks on the plant, which once produced more than a quarter of the nation’s power, Russia and Ukraine blamed each other.
Russia’s attack on Ukrainian energy facilities follows a series of combat setbacks, including the withdrawal of Russian soldiers from the southern city of Kherson to the east bank of the mighty Dnipro River that divides the nation in half.
In his nightly video address, Zelensky said, “The systematic harm done to our energy system by strikes by the Russian terrorists is so considerable that all of our people and enterprises should be careful and redistribute their consumption throughout the day.”
The strikes have left hundreds of hospitals and medical facilities “no longer fully operational, lacking fuel, water, and electricity to meet basic needs,” according to Kluge, who added that the health system in Ukraine is “facing its darkest days in the war so far.”
Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the head of Ukrenergo, claimed on Tuesday that almost no thermal or hydroelectric units had escaped damage, but he disregarded the need to evacuate residents.
The deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, posted a telegram message that provided several ways for Kherson inhabitants to express their interest in leaving, particularly the elderly, mothers with children, and those who are sick or incapacitated.
For the winter, “you can be evacuated to safer regions of the country,” she added.
The nine-month conflict has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, the uprooting of millions of people, and severe economic damage to the world, which has increased the cost of food and energy.
The world’s biggest energy crisis since the 1970s, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), will lead to a significant slowdown, with Europe suffering the most.
In the meantime, Serhiy Marchenko, the finance minister for Ukraine, announced that the country received a new 2.5 billion euro ($2.57 billion) tranche of financial aid from the European Union on Tuesday.