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KYIV, Ukraine — Russia launched a new wave of airstrikes on Ukrainian cities Monday in its latest attempt to knock out power and other basic services to civilians as the country copes with sub-freezing temperatures.
“The enemy is again attacking the territory of Ukraine with missiles,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a top official in the office of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on Telegram.
He said several homes were hit in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, killing two people and wounding two more.
Also in the south, reports from the port city of Odesa said a large fire had broken out and the water supply had been cut off.
In the capital, Kyiv, many residents took shelter in the city’s subway system.
Loud explosions were reported in several other cities around the country, though it was not immediately clear if those were incoming Russian missiles or Ukraine’s air defense weapons trying to shoot them down.
Russia has been unleashing large-scale strikes on Ukraine’s power systems since Oct. 10 in an effort to cut off power to civilians as the country heads into winter.
The temperature is below freezing in much of the country — it was 17 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday morning in Kyiv.
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The last nationwide attack was on Nov. 23 and caused significant damage to the electricity grid, knocking out power in most major cities, including Kyiv. The blackouts caused heating and water to be cut.
Ukrainian power companies have been working to restore power, and they say the country is producing about 70% of the energy it needs.
That means power cuts are still in effect nationwide. That typically involves at least one power outage a day of four hours or so, but sometimes there can be two or three such outages.
Ukraine is scrambling to prepare for the winter. Zelenskyy says his government has set up 4,000 centers to take care of civilians if there are extended power cuts.
He calls them “points of invincibility,” saying they will provide heat, water, phone charging and internet access. Many are in schools and government buildings.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has warned of blackouts that could last for days. He’s urging city residents to move in with relatives in the countryside, where they can burn wood for heat. But so far, he says, they’re staying put.
“I talked to our citizens and they are very angry, and ready to stay and ready to fight,” Klitschko said last week.
Russian troops have been losing ground on the battlefield the past few months. But Russia is betting it can break Ukrainian resolve by making life for civilians unbearable this winter.
NATO countries have responded by stepping up assistance for Ukraine’s power systems.
Ukrainians say the assistance can’t get here soon enough. Some equipment, such as transformers, are extremely hard to get.
As a large country with an expansive power grid, Ukraine transmits electricity from power stations at up to 750,000 volts, energy officials say. When the electricity reaches neighborhoods, transformers greatly reduce the voltage as the power then goes to homes and businesses.
The Russians have targeted and destroyed many of these high-voltage transformers, and Ukraine acknowledges it’s struggling to find replacements.
In normal times, this can take months because the transformers have to be made to Ukraine’s specifications. European networks, for example, tend to use transformers that handle a maximum of 400,000 volts and therefore aren’t suitable for Ukraine.