Millions of Ukrainians face bleak winter as temperatures plummet

Millions of Ukrainians are without power as winter bites: Households facing bleak few months without light, water or heat as temperatures plummet and officials compare Russian shelling of energy infrastructure to ‘genocidal’ tactics of Stalin

  • Heavy snowfall forecast to blanket Kyiv and eastern Ukraine until mid next week
  • Millions are facing power outages and no water supply due to Russian strikes
  • Zelensky accused Moscow of trying to kill Ukrainians ‘with darkness and cold’ 
  • Now military analysts are divided in predictions of how winter will impact war
  • Some think well-equipped Ukrainian forces will have upper hand on Russian foes
  • Many Russians have deployed with scarce rations and poor equipment
  • But others think winter will give Moscow time to train and deploy huge numbers of reservists and fighters who retreated from southern regions of Ukraine 

Heavy snowfall is forecast to blanket Kyiv and eastern Ukraine until mid next week with temperatures dropping below freezing as millions of Ukrainians are left without power due to Russian missile strikes on energy infrastructure.

Grid operator Ukrenergo said on Saturday that electricity producers were able to cover only three-quarters of consumption needs in the capital, necessitating restrictions and blackouts across the country.

Sergey Kovalenko, chief operating officer of YASNO, which provides energy to Kyiv, said the situation in the city has improved but admitted that residents could have as little as four hours of power per day.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said that 6 million people were without power on Friday after the latest Russian bombardments this week, which inflicted some of the worst damage so far on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. 

The Russian attempts to cut Ukrainian civilians off from power amid freezing conditions led Ukrainian official to draw comparisons to the ‘genocidal’ tactics used by Josef Stalin, as Kyiv commemorated a Soviet-era famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the winter of 1932-33.

Russia says it does not target the civilian population, while the Kremlin said that Moscow’s strikes on energy infrastructure are a consequence of Kyiv being unwilling to negotiate.

Meanwhile, the inclement weather marks the much-anticipated descent of the conflict into winter, when the bitter cold and torrid conditions could dramatically change the nature of the war.

Tetiana Reznychenko, a resident of the Ukrainian village of Horenka, shovels snow near her apartment building, which has no electricity, heating or running water, November  2022

A view of a building after the snowfall as daily life continues in Borodianka, following the withdrawal of Russian forces in Kyiv district, Ukraine

Elderly people receive food and gloves from a charity organisation in a snow covered street on November 19, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine

Ukrainian military’s Grad multiple rocket launcher fires rockets at Russian positions in the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022

Members of Ukrainian army prepare BM-21 Grad rockets to be launched in Bakhmut, Donetsk, Ukraine on November 26, 2022

For Ukrainian civilians, winter is a bleak prospect.

The Russian missile strikes have already plunged millions into darkness, and as the days grow even shorter and temperatures continue to plummet, those without regular power supplies or access to generators will be forced to burn wood and rubble to avoid freezing.

Ukrainian authorities began evacuating civilians from recently liberated sections of the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions this week, fearing that the lack of heat, power and water would lead to scores of deaths should Russia attempt to bomb their lost ground. 

Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, warned Ukrainians face a ‘catastrophic winter’ amid ‘months of frigid weather with no heating, electricity, water, or other basic utilities’. 

She also condemned Russia for its ‘relentless, widespread attacks’ on civilian centres and infrastructure, seemingly designed to make life as miserable as possible for the population. 

The WHO’s regional director for Europe Dr. Hans Henri Kluge said: ‘Attacks on health and energy infrastructure mean hundreds of hospitals and healthcare facilities are no longer fully operational, lacking fuel, water and electricity.’

He also warned of health risks such as respiratory and cardiovascular problems from people trying to warm themselves by burning charcoal or wood and using diesel generators and electric heaters.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry accused Moscow of reviving the tactics of the ‘Holodomor’ in a Saturday statement.

The Holodomor was a famine created by Soviet leader Stalin, when in 1932 he dispatched police to seize all grain and livestock from Ukrainian farms. Millions of Ukrainians subsequently starved to death.

‘On the 90th anniversary of the 1932-1933 Holodomor in Ukraine, Russia’s genocidal war of aggression pursues the same goal as during the 1932-1933 genocide: the elimination of the Ukrainian nation and its statehood,’ the foreign ministry said.

‘Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger, now – with darkness and cold,’ Zelensky wrote on Telegram. 

Several European nations have pledged further aid packages designed to help Ukraine survive the cold. 

European officials on Thursday launched a scheme called ‘Generators of Hope,’ which calls on more than 200 cities across the continent to donate power generators and electricity transformers.

Meanwhile Nordic countries Finland, Sweden and Norway – all of whom know a thing or two about negotiating brutal winters – announced civilian and military aid packages designed to help Ukraine’s civilians survive the cold while equipping its armed forces with the best equipment to wage winter warfare.

A Ukrainian missile launcher is seen bogged down in marshland after snows and rains created treacherous terrain

Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery at Russian positions in Donetsk at nighttime

Members of Ukrainian army prepare BM-21 Grad rockets to be launched in Bakhmut, Donetsk, Ukraine on November 26, 2022

A view from Kyiv after the snow hits capital city on November 19, 2022 as Russia-Ukraine war continues in Ukraine

On the frontlines, both sides have been bogged down due to extremely muddy conditions brought about by constant heavy rain and sleet in recent weeks. 

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said reporting from both sides indicated the arduous conditions have reduced the severity of the battles, though some areas in the Donbas – particularly the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk – have played host to constant fighting. 

Most military analysts have suggested that the conflict will slow over the winter months as both Russian and Ukrainian forces take the opportunity to regroup and resupply.

But given the widespread reports that many Russian units have deployed with a lack of equipment and scarce rations, Ukraine’s armed forces could well take the opportunity to launch destructive attacks against their foes. 

Russia’s assault on Kyiv in the first days of the war faltered and ultimately failed, partially due to the cold conditions which exacerbated mechanical problems and fuel supply issues for its armoured convoys (Russian convoy pictured March 7 near Kyiv)

The remains of a Russian tank are pictured in the snow, March 7, 2022, Ukraine (file pic)

‘Winter weather could disproportionately harm poorly-equipped Russian forces in Ukraine,’ defence analysts from the ISW said (destroyed Russian convoy pictured in Bucha, March 1 2022 – file pic)

File pic: An elderly woman is coated in snow as she sits in a wheelchair after being evacuated from Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Ukraine’s fighters stand to be extremely well equipped to deal with temperatures far below freezing, with many European nations and the US having provided military aid packages of weapons, vehicles and warm clothing. 

Russia’s assault on Kyiv in the first days of the war faltered and ultimately failed, partially due to the cold conditions which exacerbated mechanical problems and fuel supply issues for its armoured convoys and left soldiers unable to resist the bitter chill.

Some commentators therefore believe Ukraine could capitalise after months of constant fighting saw untold numbers of Russian military vehicles destroyed and undoubtedly impacted the morale of under-equipped troops.

‘Winter weather could disproportionately harm poorly-equipped Russian forces in Ukraine,’ the ISW said.

Defence analysts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) added: ‘The ideal time for a blitz in Ukraine is when the ground is frozen solid,’ suggesting Ukrainian forces could seek to take advantage of Russian vulnerabilities in the coming weeks. 

But others predict Moscow could gain the upper hand as the winter grinds on.

After Russian forces withdrew from positions in the south and Putin announced a partial mobilisation, defence analysts from Polish-based Rochan Consulting posited that the projected reduction in the severity and pace of the conflict will give Putin’s commanders time to train equip and deploy considerable manpower to overwhelm Ukrainian positions.

Source: Read Full Article