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Ukraine prepares for a cold, dark winter

Ukraine prepares for a cold, dark winter

An employee at a gas station in Kyiv during a power outage on Friday.

As winter approaches, Alla Melnychuk and her neighbors race the clock to save what they have left.

His apartment building in Irpen came under attack during some of the fiercest battles in March. Most of the windows are still smashed, the roof has snapped off, and the sewage pits have burned out, meaning there is no water supply and no sewage outlet. Heavy rains in September caused further damage, but Melnychuk is determined to press ahead with repairs.

“We’re running late, slowly rebuilding, buying lumber and installing the roof, but I don’t even consider the option of not finishing it before winter,” he said.

As the weather gets colder, millions of Ukrainians like Melnychuk are trying to prepare for what they know will be a very difficult winter, rushing to fix their homes and secure enough fuel to keep them warm.

These problems have been exacerbated in recent weeks by a series of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy and heating infrastructure.

Ukraine’s Energy Agency said it had to implement “extreme” and “unprecedented” emergency blackouts in Kyiv to avoid a “total blackout” as the capital faces a 30% power deficit. Residents were urged to use electricity “in moderation”, especially in the morning and at night, while businesses were asked to turn off lights outside offices, restaurants and malls.

Power outages are unpredictable, which means people need to be prepared at all times. Computers and phones are shipped whenever the opportunity arises. Some elevators in high-rise apartment buildings in the city are equipped with emergency supply boxes.

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Driving around town has become more dangerous during a power outage; Traffic accidents increased by 25%, according to police. Stores close when they lose capacity, and some restaurants have begun to advertise “blackout” menus, with food and drinks that can be served during outages.

To help people heat their homes, the Ukrainian government has launched a new online firewood store that makes it easier for people to find local suppliers.

Earlier this week, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk advised Ukrainian refugees not to return home this winter as the country’s fragile power grid is in danger of total collapse.