How Russia turned winter into a weapon of war in Ukraine

How Russia turned winter into a weapon of war in Ukraine

Updated: 14 days, 2 hours, 37 minutes, 30 seconds ago

THE Russia is turning the Northern Hemisphere’s winter into a weapon in war in ukraine, even when your soldiers are out of control on the battlefield. As the station approaches, Russian use of missiles on ships, artillery on land, and planes in the sky destroys station infrastructure. Ukraine to deprive millions of heat, electricity and fresh water.

Keeping the lights on for the millions of people who live in cities and towns far from the front – and keeping those places running through the winter – is now one of the biggest challenges facing Ukraine. “If we survive this winter, and we will definitely survive it, we will definitely win this war,” said the Ukrainian president, Volodmir Zelenskyon Wednesday the 16th.

According to Ukrainian authorities, the Russian attacks left around 40% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure damaged or destroyed. Some places were even hit five or six times. On Tuesday alone, some 100 missiles landed on Ukrainian territory, part of a pattern that many Western officials and experts say is a war crime.

Public workers install water pipes between Kiev and Hostomel, Ukraine, after infrastructure was damaged by a Russian attack, in an image taken on Aug.Public workers install water pipes between Kiev and Hostomel, Ukraine, after infrastructure was damaged by a Russian attack, in an image taken on Aug.

Photograph: Brendan Hoffman / NYT

On Thursday, the 17th, another volley of Russian missiles hit power systems and other civilian targets in several cities. Naftogaz, the state-owned oil and gas producer, said a natural gas production facility in eastern Ukraine had suffered a “massive attack”. In the southern city of Vilniansk, a missile hit a residential building and killed three people.

The attacks also damaged water supply systems that are essential for energy production and daily survival and compromised the connection of two nuclear power plants to Ukraine’s national grid – which forced nuclear operators to drastically reduce the amount of energy they receive. produce. The national power utility has already imposed sweeping but controlled blackouts that include all regions of the country, leaving millions without power for 6 to 12 hours a day.

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Iuri Levitski, head of repairs at a power substation in central Ukraine, described the plight of civil servants as “the front line of the power sector”. On a recent visit to the substation, Levitski came across a 200-tonne transformer that converts high-voltage electricity into lower power, used in homes and businesses.

According to Levitski, the missile that hit the site exploded with such force that it broke windows of a school located more than a kilometer away, started a fire that burned for four days and knocked out the power of more than half a million people. “A missile,” emphasized Levitski.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Russia has fired more than 4,500 missiles across the country, Ukrainian officials said. Over the past six weeks, the vast majority have been directed towards civilian infrastructure. “The situation is serious, the most serious in history,” said Volodmir Kudritski, head of Ukrenergo, the national electricity utility, on Wednesday. “Since the beginning of October, this is already the sixth massive attack on the country’s energy infrastructure, this time the biggest.”

In an interview before the latest wave of attacks, Kudritski said the Russian military was being guided by electrical engineers familiar with the country’s power grid, as much of it was built when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union🇧🇷 The Levitski substation is an example of this, having been built in 1958.

To hit the transformer hundreds of miles away, the Russians had to know exactly where to strike to do the most damage. That’s why, even as Ukraine’s air defenses improve – shooting down 75 of the 96 cruise missiles fired into Ukraine on Tuesday – Russian missiles that do manage to break through continue to destroy the already battered network.

Residential neighborhood in Kiev, capital of Ukraine without power on Tuesday, 15. Waves of Russian attacks left about 40% of the country's critical energy infrastructure damaged or destroyedResidential neighborhood in Kiev, capital of Ukraine without power on Tuesday, 15. Waves of Russian attacks left about 40% of the country’s critical energy infrastructure damaged or destroyed

Photograph: Brendan Hoffman / NYT

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The precision of attacks on infrastructure contrasts with the disarray that characterized much of the Russian military effort. With each loss on the battlefield, Moscow has stepped up the military campaign to subdue Ukraine, targeting civilian infrastructure. So far, Ukraine has managed to find a way to resist the attacks with public efforts to restore infrastructure.

Ukrainian officials claim that one of the Kremlin’s goals with the attacks on infrastructure is to cause a new mass exit from the country, but there is no evidence that this is happening at the moment.

According to Levitski, the controlled blackouts – which grew after each successive attack – allowed engineers to stabilize the network. Ukrainian utility workers have also managed to keep the water flowing despite temporary outages.

Consequences of water interruption

Control is crucial for Ukraine, a 70% urban country, where the fallout from an energy meltdown can set in quickly, especially if water infrastructure is compromised. “People don’t really fully understand this, but water and energy are incredibly intertwined and interconnected,” said Peter Gleick, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit research group that addresses global water challenges.

“It takes a tremendous amount of energy to operate any modern water system,” he explained. “It also takes a lot of water to run power systems. As a result, anything that directly affects the energy system directly affects our ability to provide the water that is essential for human survival,” he added.

Damage to high voltage electrical substation in central Ukraine that Iuri Levitski and team aim to repairDamage to high voltage electrical substation in central Ukraine that Iuri Levitski and team aim to repair

Photograph: Brendan Hoffman / NYT

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Without electricity, water purification becomes unreliable and sewage is either not collected or has to be dumped untreated into rivers and lakes, which can lead to outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and ecological disasters. While people can live in the dark, when the water stops flowing, city life can fall apart.

And to compound Ukraine’s risks, Russia is also directly targeting water infrastructure. According to work developed by Gleick, alongside Ukrainian and European colleagues, more than 60 attacks on water-related infrastructure were carried out by the Russians in the first months of the war and documented later. The main targets are dams, according to Ukrainian officials.

Gleick notes that such attacks are directly prohibited by the protocols of the Geneva Conventions, which consider attacks on civilian infrastructure, including “drinking water facilities and irrigation supplies and works”, to be war crimes.

In the latest missile attack, workers had 13 minutes to flee from the moment the alarm sounded until the first missile hit their infrastructure, at a power substation in central Ukraine. On site, a bus is constantly maintained to transport you to a bunker whenever the attack alarm sounds. All escaped unharmed. “We were mentally prepared, knowing this would happen sooner or later,” Levitski said.

While suffering from attacks, they also have to deal with material constraints to repair the infrastructure. So far, by all indications, they have managed to resist. “Putin is a monster,” says Levitski. “But every time Russia attacks, Ukraine will rebuild.”

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