KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Residents of Ukraine’s bombed capital clutched empty bottles in search of water and crowded into cafes for energy and heat Thursday, defiantly going into survival mode after fresh Russian missile strikes a day earlier submerged it the city and most of the country in darkness.
In scenes hard to believe in a sophisticated city of 3 million, some Kyiv residents resorted to collecting rainwater from drain pipes as repair crews worked to reconnect supplies.
Friends and family members exchanged messages to find out who had power and water back. Some had one but not the other. The previous day’s airstrike on Ukraine’s power grid left many without either.
Cafes in Kyiv which by some small miracle both quickly became oases of comfort on Thursday.
Oleksiy Rashchupkin, a 39-year-old investment banker, woke up to find that the water had been turned on in his third-floor apartment, but the electricity had not. His freezer defrosted in the dark, leaving a puddle on his floor.
So he hopped into a cab and crossed the Dnieper River from the left bank to the right, to a cafe he noticed had remained open since earlier Russian attacks. Of course, it served hot drinks, hot food, and the music and Wi-Fi were on.
“I’m here because there’s heating, coffee and light,” he said. “Here’s to life.”
The mayor of Kyiv, Vitalii Klitschko said about 70 percent of the Ukrainian capital was still without power Thursday morning.
As Kyiv and other cities rebounded, Kherson came under the heaviest bombardment on Thursday since Ukrainian forces retook the southern city two weeks ago. The barrage of missiles killed four people outside a coffee shop and a woman was killed outside her house, witnesses told The Associated Press.
In Kyiv, where cold rain fell on the remnants of earlier snowfalls, the mood was somber but steely. The winter promises to be long. But Ukrainians say that if Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intention is to break them, he should think again.
“No one will compromise their will and principles just for electricity,” said Alina Dubeiko (34). She also sought comfort in another, equally crowded, warm and brightly lit cafe. With no electricity, heating or running water at home, she was determined to maintain her work routine. Adjusting to a life cut short of his usual comforts, Dubeiko said he uses two glasses of water to wash up, then pulls his hair into a ponytail and is ready for his work day.
She said she would rather be without power than live with the Russian invasion, which crossed the nine-month mark on Thursday.
“No light or you?” Without you,” she said, echoing statements made by President Volodymyr Zelensky when Russia launched the first of what has now become a series of airstrikes on key Ukrainian infrastructure on Oct. 10.
Western leaders condemned the bombing campaign. “Strikes on civilian infrastructure are war crimes,” wrote French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov admitted on Thursday that the target was Ukrainian energy facilities. But he said they were linked to Ukraine’s military command and control system and the aim was to cut off the flow of Ukrainian troops, weapons and ammunition to the front lines. The authorities for Kyiv and the wider Kyiv region reported a total of 7 dead and dozens of wounded.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, said: “We are conducting attacks on infrastructure in response to the unrestrained flow of arms into Ukraine and Kyiv’s reckless appeals to defeat Russia.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also tried to shift the blame for the civilian hardship to Ukraine’s government.
“The leadership of Ukraine has every opportunity to return the situation to normal, it has every opportunity to resolve the situation in such a way as to meet the demands of the Russian side and, accordingly, to end all possible suffering of the civilian population,” said Peskov. .
In Kyiv, people line up at public water stations to fill plastic bottles. In a strange new war for her, 31-year-old employee of the Ministry of Health, Katerina Luchkina, resorted to collecting rainwater from the drain pipe, so that she could at least wash her hands at work, which had no water. She filled two plastic bottles, patiently waiting in the rain until water came. A colleague followed behind her, doing the same.
“We Ukrainians are so resourceful, we will come up with something.” We are not losing our spirit,” Luchkina said. “We work, we live in the rhythm of survival or something, as much as possible. We do not lose hope that everything will be fine.”
The city’s mayor said on Telegram that energy engineers were “doing their best” to restore electricity. Water repair teams have also been making progress. In the early afternoon, Klitschko announced that water had been restored in the capital, warning that “some customers may still have low water pressure”.
Electricity, heat and water gradually returned to other places as well. In the southeastern Ukrainian region of Dnipropetrovsk, the governor announced that 3,000 miners buried underground due to power outages had been rescued. Regional authorities posted messages on social media informing people of the progress of the repairs, but also that they needed time.
Aware of the difficulties – both now and ahead as winter progresses – authorities are opening thousands of so-called “points of invincibility” – heated and powered spaces that offer hot meals, electricity and internet connections. More than 3,700 were open across the country on Thursday morning, a senior official in the presidential office, Kyrillo Tymoshenko, said.
In Kherson, hospitals without electricity and water are also struggling with the horrific after-effects of intensified Russian attacks. They crashed into residential and office buildings on Thursday, setting some on fire, blowing ash into the sky and shattering glass in the streets. Paramedics helped the injured.
Olena Žura was bringing bread to the neighbors when her husband Viktor was wounded in the blow that destroyed half of her house. He writhed in pain as the paramedics took him away.
“I was shocked,” she said, choking back tears. “Then I heard (him) shouting, ‘Save me, save me.’
Mednik reported from Kherson, Ukraine.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine