Russian-Ukraine War: Ukraine Scrambles to Restore Services After Disruptive Russian Strikes

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Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — Emergency services worked through the dark night in snow and sleet on Thursday to stabilize Ukraine’s battered power grid after another devastating spate of Russian missile strikes, restoring essential services such as running water and heating in many parts of the country, even as millions remained without power.

The Ukrainians have resisted Moscow’s relentless campaign to weaponize winter in an attempt to weaken their resolve and force Kiev to capitulate, even as Russia heaps new suffering on a war-weary nation.

Surgeons were forced to work with flashlightsthousands of miners had to be pulled from the deep underground with hand winches, and people across the country lugged buckets and bottles of water up the stairs in high-rise apartment buildings where the elevators stopped.

The State Border Service of Ukraine suspended operations at border checkpoints with Hungary and Romania on Thursday due to power outages and Ukraine’s national railway company reported delays and disruptions in a network that has served as a resilient lifeline for the country during nine months of war.

Families charged their phones, warmed up and gathered information in centers set up in towns and cities during extended blackouts. Police in the capital Kyiv and other cities stepped up patrols as shop and restaurant owners turned on generators or lit candles and continued working.

“The situation is difficult across the country,” said Herman Galushchenko, Ukraine’s energy minister. But by 4 a.m., he said, engineers had managed to “unify the power system,” directing power to critical infrastructure facilities.

In Moldova, Ukraine’s western neighbor, whose Soviet-era power systems remain interconnected with Ukraine’s, the power grid was largely back online after the country “massive power outage” the minister of infrastructure said on Twitter. “We move forward, stronger and victorious,” wrote the minister, Andrei Spinu.

The barrage of Russian missiles on Wednesday killed at least 10 people and injured dozens, Ukrainian officials said, in what appeared to be one of the most disruptive attacks in weeks. Since Oct. 10, Russia has fired some 600 missiles at power plants, hydroelectric plants, water pumping stations and treatment plants, power lines around nuclear power plants and critical substations that power tens of millions of homes and businesses, according to Ukrainian officials.

The campaign is taking a mounting toll. Wednesday’s strikes took all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants offline for the first time, depriving the country of one of its most vital energy sources.

“We expect nuclear power plants to start operating by evening, so the shortfall will decrease,” said Mr. Galushchenko.

General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the top commander of the Ukrainian armed forces, said Ukrainian air defenses shot down 51 of 67 Russian cruise missiles fired on Wednesday and five of 10 drones.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, Spoken Wednesday night at an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, condemned what he called a Russian terror campaign.

“If the temperature outside drops below zero and tens of millions of people are left without electricity, heat and water as a result of Russian missiles hitting energy facilities,” he said, “it is an obvious crime against humanity.”

In Kiev, about one in four homes still lacked electricity as of Thursday afternoon, and more than half of the city’s residents had no running water, according to city officials. Service was being gradually restored, city officials said, saying they were confident the pumps that supply water to about three million residents would be restored by the end of the day.

In the southern Black Sea port city of Odessa, transit was halted to use the limited energy supply to get the water running again. In the Lviv region of western Ukraine, where millions of people displaced by fighting, power and water have fled their homes, services have largely been restored.

National energy company Ukrenergo said that given the “significant amount of damage” and difficult working conditions, repairs could take longer in some regions than others.

“There is no need to panic,” the utility said in a statement. Critical infrastructure would all be reconnected, it said.