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Kyiv Blackouts Amid Russian Attacks    05/22 06:11

   

   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Sustained Russian attacks on Ukraine's power grid in 
recent weeks have forced leaders of the war-ravaged country to institute 
nationwide rolling blackouts. Without adequate air defenses to counter assaults 
and allow for repairs, though, the shortages could still worsen as need spikes 
in late summer and the bitter-cold winter.

   The Russian airstrikes targeting the grid since March have meant blackouts 
have even returned to the capital, Kyiv, which hadn't experienced them since 
the first year of the war. Among the strikes were an April barrage that damaged 
Kyiv's largest thermal power plant and a massive attack on May 8 that targeted 
power generation and transmission facilities in several regions.

   In all, half of Ukraine's energy system was damaged, Foreign Minister Dmytro 
Kuleba said.

   Entire apartment blocks in the capital went dark. The city's military 
administration said at least 10% of consumers were disconnected.

   For many, it is a taste of what might be in store if Ukraine doesn't find 
other electricity sources before winter.

   Before dawn Wednesday, a Russian drone attack on Sumy plunged the northern 
Ukraine city into darkness. Some power was restored to the city of around a 
quarter-million people in the morning as crews rushed to repair the damage, 
local authorities said.

   With no end in sight to the attacks on the power grid and without a way to 
adequately defend against them, there are no quick fixes to the electricity 
shortages, Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko explained. Ukraine is appealing 
to Western allies for more air defense systems and spare parts to fix its 
Soviet-era plants.

   "With each attack we lose additional power generation, so it just goes 
minus, minus, minus," Halushchenko said Tuesday while standing outside a 
coal-fired plant in central Ukraine that was destroyed in an April 11 attack. 
Any efforts to repair the plant would be futile until the military can defend 
it from another attack.

   "Should we repair (power stations) just for them (Russians) to renew strikes 
while we are unable to defend ourselves?" the minister asked.

   German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's joined him on the plant visit, 
underscoring Ukraine's desperation to close the power gap as quickly as 
possible.

   The first major test of the grid will come in July and August, when 
consumption due to summer heat can mirror levels in the sub-freezing winter 
months, the minister said.

   By mid-May, Kyiv's residents began to feel the consequences of Russia's 
attacks. A cold snap drove up consumption, forcing Ukrenergo, the main 
transmission system operator, to introduce controlled blackouts throughout the 
country. Ukraine can't generate enough power to cover evening peaks, and the 
shortage is greater than the country's ability to import electricity from 
Poland, Slovakia and Romania.

   The April 11 attack on the plant destroyed generators, transformers and 
turbines -- every necessary part to generate electricity, said Yevhen Harkavyi, 
the technical director of Centerenergo, which operates the plant.

   Five missiles hit the facility that day, and workers were still clearing 
away rubble on Tuesday as snow-like tufts of poplar cotton fell through a hole 
in the roof.

   The plan for winter is to restore power generation as much as possible, said 
Harkavyi. How that will happen isn't clear, he conceded: "The situation is 
already too difficult."

   Ukraine is hoping to acquire parts from long-decommissioned German plants. 
Harkavyi said Ukrainian teams recently went to Germany to evaluate the 
equipment, which was taken offline because it doesn't meet European Union 
environmental standards. It remains to be seen how willing European allies will 
be to invest in Ukraine's coal-fueled energy sector given their own greener 
goals.

   The teams are still evaluating how to get the equipment back to Ukraine, he 
said.

   "This is the first question," he said. "The second question is what Ukraine 
is crying about: We need active protection with air defense systems, and we 
hope that Mrs. Minister (Baerbock) has seen the scale of destruction and will 
do everything possible to call for help from the whole world."

 
 
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