Europe is trying to help Ukraine save heat and light

Kyiv – European officials are trying to help Ukraine stay warm and functioning during the bitter winter months, pledging on Friday to send more support to mitigate efforts by the Russian military to shut off the heat and lights.

Nine months after Russia invaded its neighbor, Kremlin forces have targeted Ukraine’s power grid and other critical civilian infrastructure in an attempt to tighten the screws on Kiev. Officials estimate that about 50% of Ukraine’s energy facilities were damaged in the recent strikes.

France will send 100 powerful generators to Ukraine to help people get through the coming months, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on Friday.

She said that Russia is “weaponizing” the winter and plunging the civilian population of Ukraine into adversity.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley, who arrived in Kyiv on Friday for an unannounced visit, said a promised air defense package, estimated by Britain at 50 million pounds ($60 million), would help Ukraine defend itself against Russian bombing.

“Words are not enough. Words don’t light the lights this winter. You can’t protect against Russian missiles with words,” Cleverly tweeted about military aid.

The package includes radar and other technology to counter Iranian-supplied explosive drones that Russia has used against Ukrainian targets, particularly the power grid. This is in addition to the delivery of more than 1,000 anti-aircraft missiles that Britain announced earlier this month.

“As winter approaches, Russia continues to try to break Ukraine’s resolve through its brutal attacks on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure,” Cleverley said.

His visit came a day after European officials launched a scheme called “Generators of Hope”, which calls on more than 200 cities across the continent to donate generators and electrical transformers.

The generators are designed to keep major Ukrainian facilities running, powering hospitals, schools and water pumping stations, among other infrastructure.

Generators can provide only a small amount of energy that Ukraine will need during the cold and dark winter months.

But the comfort and relief they provide is already evident as winter begins in earnest and power outages occur regularly. The whine and hum of generators is becoming commonplace, allowing shops that have them to stay open and Ukraine’s ubiquitous coffee shops to continue serving hot drinks that maintain a semblance of normalcy.

Ukrainian authorities are opening thousands of so-called “points of invincibility” — heated and powered rooms that offer hot meals, electricity and internet. President of Ukraine Zelensky said on Thursday evening that almost 4,400 such places have opened in most of the country.

He mocked Moscow’s attempts to intimidate Ukraine’s civilian population, saying it was the only option for the Russian military after a series of battlefield setbacks. “Either energy terror, or artillery terror, or missile terror – that’s all that Russia has led to under the current leadership,” Zelensky said.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian officials and energy companies continued efforts to restore supplies after a nationwide deluge on Wednesday that left tens of millions without power or water.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Friday morning that heating has returned to a third of the capital’s houses, but half of the population still does not have electricity.

Writing in Telegram, Klitschko added that the authorities hope to provide all consumers in Kiev with electricity on Friday for three hours according to a predetermined schedule.

As of Friday morning, all residents of Ukraine’s second-largest city in Kharkiv have had their electricity restored, but more than 100,000 people on the outskirts continue to experience power outages, the regional governor said.

In the southern city of Mykolaiv, authorities said running water would resume after Russian strikes cut off supplies on Thursday.

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