Top Ukrainian officials have warned the city’s residents to be prepared for mass evacuations as Russian strikes continue to target Ukraine’s energy infrastructure ahead of winter.
“We are doing everything to avoid this. But let’s be frank, our enemies are doing everything for the city to be without heat, without electricity, without water supply, in general, so we all die,” Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko told Ukrainian media on Sunday. “The future of the country and the future of each of us depends on how prepared we are for different situations,” he added.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the country over the weekend to brace for further attacks. Russia “is concentrating forces and means for a possible repetition of mass attacks on our infrastructure,” he said. “First of all, energy. In particular, for this, Russia needs Iranian missiles.” Zelenskyy was referring to earlier reports, citing U.S. and Iranian officials, that Iran is preparing to ship short-range ballistic missiles to Russia.
Russian forces have launched sustained cruise missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian critical energy facilities since early October as part of an effort to cripple the country’s infrastructure heading into the winter months.
About 450,000 households in Kyiv alone were cut off from electricity and 80 percent of residents in Ukraine’s capital lost access to water Klitschko said last week. Up to five million people nationwide are without power, with officials estimating that as much as 40 percent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure sustained serious damage from the relentless Russian strikes.
Kyiv authorities, grappling with greater-than-expected electricity shortages, have announced pre-planned blackouts to mitigate the effects of continued Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy sites. The city’s residents have reported power cuts lasting up to fifteen hours. “Sometimes just all day without light,” Kyiv local Vita Spivakovska told NBC News. “If it’s -20 (-4 F°) outside, I will probably have to go somewhere with my little one,” Spivakovska said.
A growing number of residents are contemplating life outside the city. Locals are making plans to stay with relatives in the countryside if Kyiv is evacuated, according to a CNN report. Small business owners have described an increasingly untenable economic climate as the strain on Ukrainian infrastructure makes it difficult for some to stay open even for several hours per day. “I ordered a generator, but I don’t know when it will arrive,” cafe owner Yuriy Pogulay told CNN. “With the generator my costs will increase, but I can’t raise prices because the economic situation of people has worsened.”
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.