Bombed, not defeated: Ukraine’s capital goes into survival mode

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KYIV, Ukraine — Residents of Ukraine’s bombed-out but undeterred capital grabbed empty bottles in search of water and thronged cafes for power and heat on Thursday. They defiantly switched to survival mode after new Russian missile strikes left the city and much of the country in darkness a day earlier.

In scenes that are hard to believe in a sophisticated city of 3 million, some Kiev residents resorted to collecting rainwater from downspouts while repair crews worked to reconnect supplies.

Friends and relatives exchanged messages to find out who had electricity and water restored. Some had one but not the other. The previous day’s airstrike on Ukraine’s power grid left many with neither.

Cafes in Kiev that, by a small miracle, had both quickly become oases of comfort on Thursday.

Oleksiy Rashchupkin, a 39-year-old investment banker, woke up to find that the water had been reconnected to his third-floor flat, but the power was not connected. His freezer defrosted in the blackout, leaving a puddle on his floor.

So he got into a taxi and crossed the Dnieper River from the left bank to the right bank, to a café he had noticed had remained open after previous Russian attacks. Sure enough, it was open, serving hot drinks and hot food and with the music and wifi on.

“I’m here because there’s heating, coffee and light,” he said. “Here is life.”

Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko said about 70% of the Ukrainian capital was still without power as of Thursday morning.

With cold rain falling and the remnants of a previous snowfall still on the streets, the mood was grim but steely. Winter promises to be long. But Ukrainians say that if Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to break them, he should think again.

“No one will compromise their will and principles just for electricity,” says Alina Dubeiko, 34. She, too, sought the comfort of another equally busy, warm and illuminated cafe. Without electricity, heating and water in the house, she was determined to keep up her work routine. Dubeiko adjusts to life without the usual comforts and says she uses two glasses of water to wash herself, then ties her hair in a ponytail and is ready for her work day.

She said she would rather live without power than live with the Russian invasion, which crossed the nine-month mark on Thursday.

“Without light or you? Without you,” she said, echoing President Volodymyr Zelenskky’s remarks when Russia unleashed the first of what has now become a series of airstrikes against key Ukrainian infrastructure on October 10.

Western leaders denounced the bombings. “Strikes against civilian infrastructure are war crimes,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tried to shift the blame for the deprivation of the population to the Ukrainian government on Thursday.

“The leadership of Ukraine has every chance to return the situation to normal, has every chance to resolve the situation in such a way as to meet the demands of the Russian side and, accordingly, end all possible suffering of the civilian population Peskov said. .

Meanwhile, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces issued an urgent appeal to Belarusians not to get involved in the war, warning that Russian special services are preparing “provocations” against critical infrastructure facilities, including the Ostrovets nuclear power plant.

“Ukraine does not consider your country, especially your people, as an enemy, and we do not intend to carry out any aggressive actions on the territory of the Republic of Belarus,” the general staff said in a statement on Thursday.

In Kiev, people lined up at public water points to fill plastic bottles. In a strange new wartime first for her, 31-year-old health department employee Kateryna Luchkina resorted to collecting rainwater from a drainpipe so she could at least wash her hands at work, which had no water. She filled two plastic bottles and waited patiently in the rain for them to fill to the brim. A colleague followed her and did the same.

“We Ukrainians are so resourceful, we will come up with something. We are not losing our courage,” said Luchkina. “We work, live as much as possible in the rhythm of survival or something. We do not lose hope that everything will be fine.”

The mayor said on Telegram that power engineers are “doing their best” to restore electricity. Water repair teams also made progress. In the early afternoon, Klitschko announced that water supply had been restored throughout the capital, with the caveat that “some consumers may still experience low water pressure.”

Electricity, heat and water gradually returned elsewhere. In Ukraine’s southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region, the governor announced that 3,000 miners trapped underground due to power outages had been rescued. Regional authorities posted messages on social media to update people on the progress of repairs, but also said they needed time.

Aware of the hardships – both now and in the future, as winter progresses – authorities are opening thousands of so-called “points of invincibility” – heated and powered spaces with hot meals, electricity and internet connections. More than 3,700 were open across the country on Thursday morning, said a senior presidential office official Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

In the southern city of Kherson, recaptured by Ukrainian forces two weeks ago, hospitals’ struggle with loss of power and water is exacerbated by intensified Russian attacks.

Olena Zhura was carrying bread to her neighbors on Thursday when a strike that destroyed half her home in Kherson injured her husband Victor. Paramedics took Victor away as he was writhing in pain.

“I was shocked,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “Then I heard (him) scream, ‘Save me, save me.’

AP journalist Sam Mednick in Kherson, Ukraine, contributed.

Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine at: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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