KYIV, Ukraine — European officials are trying to help Ukraine stay warm and functioning during the cold winter months, pledging on Friday to send more support that will reduce the Russian military’s efforts to turn off the heat and lights.
Nine months after Russia invaded its neighbor, Kremlin forces have zeroed out Ukraine’s electricity grid and other vital civilian infrastructure in a bid to crack down on Kiev. Officials estimate that about 50% of Ukraine’s energy facilities have been damaged in recent strikes.
France is sending 100 high-powered generators to Ukraine to help the nation in the coming months, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on Friday.
According to him, Russia is “weaponizing” the winter and putting the civilian population of Ukraine in a difficult situation.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley, who arrived in Kiev on Friday for an unannounced visit, said Britain’s promised 50 million pound ($60 million) air defense package would help defend Ukraine against Russian bombing.
“Words are not enough. Words won’t turn on the lights this winter. Words will not defend against Russian missiles,” Cleverly said in a tweet about military aid.
PHOTOS: Europe struggles to help Ukraine keep the heat and lights on
The package includes radar and other technology against Iranian-supplied explosive drones that Russia uses against Ukrainian targets, particularly the power grid. This comes on top of the delivery of more than 1,000 anti-aircraft missiles that Britain announced earlier this month.
“As winter approaches, Russia continues to chip away at and break Ukraine’s resolve with its relentless attacks on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure,” Cleverly said.
His visit came a day after European officials launched a scheme called “Generators of Hope” calling on more than 200 cities on the continent to donate power generators and power transformers.
The generators are designed to help run key Ukrainian facilities by powering hospitals, schools and water pumping stations, among other infrastructure.
Generators can provide only a small fraction of the energy Ukraine will need during the cold and dark winter months.
But the comfort and convenience they provide is already evident, as winter begins in earnest and electricity cuts regularly. The clanking and humming of generators is becoming commonplace, allowing the stores that stock them to stay open and Ukraine’s ubiquitous coffee shops to continue serving hot drinks while maintaining a semblance of normality.
Ukrainian authorities are opening thousands of so-called “points of invincibility” – heated and powered places that offer hot meals, electricity and internet connections. Ukrainian President Zelensky said on Thursday that about 4,400 such places have been opened in most parts of the country.
He derided Moscow’s attempts to intimidate Ukrainian civilians, saying it was the Russian military’s only option after a series of battlefield setbacks. “Either energy terror, or artillery terror, or missile terror – these are all things that Russia has reduced under the current leaders,” Zelensky said.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian officials and energy workers continued efforts to restore supplies after a nationwide blackout left tens of millions of people without power and water on Wednesday.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Friday morning that heating has been restored to a third of the capital’s households, but half of its population is still without electricity.
Writing on Telegram, Klitschko added that the authorities hope to provide all consumers in Kiev with three hours of electricity on Friday, according to a predetermined schedule.
Electricity was restored to all residents of Ukraine’s second-largest city in Kharkiv early Friday, but more than 100,000 people in the remote region continue to experience outages, the regional governor said.
Officials in the southern city of Nikolayev said running water was back on Thursday after Russian strikes cut off supplies.
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