Ukrainians brace for harsh winter as Russian bombardment of power plants intensifies

Abandoned water heaters, empty propane canisters and scraps of steel rebar are the key ingredients needed to combat Ukraine’s impending plunge into freezing darkness.

That’s according to Evgeny, 35, a former Territorial Defense member who is now back in his motorcycle garage in Kyiv, recovering from injuries sustained during the war.

In a tiny street workshop, the injured engineer and his team of three mechanics are busy welding makeshift potbellied stoves in a haze of sparks.

Dirty, squat creations could save lives: President Volodymyr Zelensky warned over the weekend that there would be power cuts across the country after officials estimated that 40% of the country’s energy infrastructure Ukraine had been damaged or destroyed by Russian drone and missile strikes that began two weeks ago. .

Officials from DTek, Ukraine’s largest energy investor, which controls several factories across the country, said The Independent the attacks could cause “the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since 1945”, warning that civilians will inevitably die.

And as temperatures begin to drop well below zero, the only way to get warm, have light, and even cook may be these homemade appliances.

“If you go to superstores like Epicenter, all the wood-burning stoves are expensive and sold out,” says Evgeny, explaining that they’re perfecting cheap, lightweight portable heaters for soldiers near the front lines.

“These stoves are very easy to make: all you need is an old water heater or empty propane bottles which are heavier but generate longer lasting heat. These stoves cost around $35 to make, that’s all.

Ukrainians across the country are preparing for a harsh winter without heat, water or electricity, as officials say that since early October Russia has launched “massive” attacks on energy infrastructure across the country, destroying or damaging 40% of installations, including half of the country’s thermal capacity.

Russia and the forces it supports have also seized some key facilities, including the Zaporizhzhia power plant as well as several thermal power plants, causing panic and wreaking havoc on the grid.

Over the weekend, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that its forces were continuing to launch attacks against Ukraine’s energy and military infrastructure. On Monday, Ukraine’s intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said their forces had shot down around 70% of the roughly 330 Shahed drones Russia had fired so far.

But others are coming. Budanov claimed that the Russian military has ordered around 1,700 units of various types of drones, and that a second batch of around 300 Shahed-136 drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) – manufactured by Iran – are currently in production. deployment course. (Tehran has vehemently denied supplying the arms to Russia.)

Firefighters try to put out a blaze at an undisclosed energy facility hit by Russian strikes

(via Reuters)

The growing onslaught of drones has caused as many as 4,000 cities and towns across Ukraine to lose power in recent weeks.

That’s how Evgeny and his team perfected their makeshift stove prototypes, creating both lightweight portable models for soldiers on the move and heavy, heat-saving stationary models for homes.

They trained local communities on how to make them for those in recently liberated areas and even posted a video on their social media pages explaining how people can make them at home, a clip that has garnered tens of thousands views in a few weeks.

“Communities can ask a local welder to help or hire a stick welder, which is not a lot of money to make them,” he continued. He said his team had found three warehouses of discarded water heaters – the “perfect material” for the portable models they are sculpting for the military.

These band-aid solutions could be lifesavers. As the electricity supply has technically been restored in the country, last weekend President Zelensky issued a personal appeal to the population to limit their use of appliances and pay attention to the newly scheduled blackouts. put in place, designed to stabilize the beleaguered system.

Meanwhile, Defense Ministry officials said Russia was deliberately attacking energy facilities as the “next level of genocide” and would continue the bombings.

“Since Russia was not able to defeat us on the battlefield, they are doing what they can to slowly kill us,” said Yuriy Sak, an adviser to the Defense Ministry. The Independent.

Made from a discarded water heater and scrap metal, this belly stove is designed to help Ukrainians this winter

(Bel Trew)

Antonina Antosha of Dtek warned that “the situation is getting critical”. She said that of the six thermal power plants (TPPS) under Dtek’s control, five have been attacked since October 10, strikes that killed one of their employees and injured 10 others. Two of their other thermal power plants in Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia are now under the control of Russian-backed forces.

She said that until the attacks began, Ukraine had even exported electricity to the European Union to help countries replace Russian energy resources. This has now ceased.

“Today Ukraine’s energy facilities are being destroyed, leaving millions of Ukrainians without light or heating. This could be the biggest humanitarian disaster since 1945,” she added.

Back at the garage in Kyiv, Evgeny said that was why civilians were turning to makeshift means to stay safe and warm. In supermarkets across the country, candles, heaters and torches were out of stock or sold out.

The families said The Independent how they stored wood, charcoal and fuel, preparing for the worst.

“We now have three supply warehouses and plan to expand,” Evgeny said of their project.

“Our main problem is that we fund this with our money and our donations. If someone can invest, we can increase the capacity. Ukraine will need it.

Christi C. Elwood