Kyiv city center which is without power after a Russian missile attack. Photo: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP/dpa
“This is how we operate on the heart today,” explains the country’s best-known heart surgeon, Borys Todurov, in an Instagram video on Thursday. “Rejoice Russians, today there was a child on the operating table and the power went out completely. gorgeous guys. Very humanitarian people,” says the 57-year-old with a sarcastic undertone as he walks through the dark corridors of his hospital.
In Ukraine, the tenth month of the Russian invasion has begun with an unprecedented blackout. After the seventh massive Russian rocket attack on the energy supply systems since the beginning of October, the critical infrastructure of the hospitals could no longer be supplied with electricity on Wednesday, even in the specially protected city of Kyiv, which has a population of three million.
The water supply failed completely. Large parts of the city also remained without district heating. The subway reduced its cycle times, while the electrically operated trolleybuses came to a complete standstill.
In their dark and unheated apartments, with temperatures still slightly above freezing, Kievans got a first taste of what could lie ahead for them and millions of other Ukrainians in the coming three winter months.
Ukrainians are patiently responding to the power outages
For the time being, however, the crisis-accustomed Ukrainians took the situation with equanimity, although in some parts of the city there was panic buying and queues formed at gas stations equipped with electricity generators.
People of all ages stoically lined up at the capital’s fountains with water containers and buckets. While waiting, children played with empty five-liter plastic containers, while the adults sometimes stood together in groups and talked.
“I queued for a good 40 minutes,” says a man named Gaspar while he’s waiting for a car at the velodrome with several full containers. The family’s home is on one of Kiev’s hills and it’s too cumbersome to lug water up the hill. Gaspar doesn’t really trust the authorities’ announcement that the water supply will be repaired soon. “Maybe, but maybe not,” he says with a mischievous smile.
But despite the skepticism, Kiev’s mayor Vitali Klitschko reported the first success just under 24 hours after the attacks. “The water supply has been restored in all parts of the city,” wrote the 51-year-old on the Telegram news channel. However, there is still not enough water pressure everywhere. And indeed: In the city center, the first trickle and rattle of the tap only gradually turned into a normal jet of water.
Kievans cheer each other up
The problem with the power supply turns out to be more persistent. “The task of restoring the energy grid is a matter of hours and not days,” said the deputy chief of the presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, on Wednesday. But half of Kyiv is still without electricity on Friday. The dependent cell phone and internet service has not yet been restored everywhere either.
In parts of the city without electricity where there are subway stations, the residents go to the stations to get information from the mobile internet that works there. In other quarters, people in the dark high-rise canyons cheer each other up with loud shouts. Curses from Russian President Vladimir Putin make it clear that the blackout will not affect the country’s will to persevere.
A generator rattled at a coffee stand at the Golden Gate in the city center on Thursday. “I actually like coffee with milk more,” an elderly passer-by interjects in the conversation with the coffee seller, who asks again whether the coffee should really be black. She apologizes immediately: “I like to joke and just want to cheer up the mood a bit in this chaos.” Wladyslaw replies with a grin: “It’s not chaos yet.”
He willingly accepts a donation of the equivalent of thirty cents to cover the cost of petrol, and card payment is even possible despite the generator running: “I’m surprised myself, but there’s a connection to the bank via the mobile Internet,” he explains briefly before he has his coffee prepared. The next day the generator has disappeared and the electricity is apparently back. Possibly only until the next Russian missile attack.