Thousands of Ukrainians could freeze to death in winter, expert warns

‘Thousands will freeze to death’: Putin’s power plant attacks have wiped out a third of Ukraine’s power as people in Kyiv are told they may have to flee if total blackout hits

  • Ukraine needs anti-air defences to stop Russia hitting power plants, expert says 
  • ‘Thousands’ could freeze to death in their homes this winter, Dr Justin Bronk said 
  • Ukraine is short a third of its daily power needs, national grid warned on Monday 
  • People in Kyiv told to make plans to flee the capital in case of a total blackout 

Thousands of Ukrainians will freeze to death in their homes this winter if the country is not given more anti-aircraft guns to defend its power plants, an expert has warned.

Dr Justin Bronk, of think-tank RUSI, urged the West to donate more shoulder-launched missiles and mobile anti-aircraft batteries to Kyiv to defeat Russian attacks on its energy grid using cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones. 

Ukraine’s national grid operator has warned of ‘further, deeper’ blackouts today because the country is short a third of the energy it needs to keeping running. 

Meanwhile Vitaly Klitschko, mayor of Kyiv, told people to start making plans to flee the capital in case of a ‘complete and sustained power shutdown’ that would completely cut light, heating, water and sewage services.

Ukraine urgently needs anti-air defences from the West or thousands of people will freeze to death in their homes this winter, and expert has warned (pictured, blackout in Kyiv)

Ukraine’s power grid operator warned today that the country is short a third of the energy it needs to keep running and ‘further, deeper’ blackouts are coming

Ukrainians eat dinner by the light of candles in a bar in Kyiv as the capital city was hit by blackouts, amid warnings people may have to flee in the event of a ‘sustained’ loss of power

Vladimir Putin switched tactics in early October to strike Ukraine’s power plants and energy lines after suffering significant defeats on the battlefield.

Using precision-guided bombs and Iranian-supplied Shahed 136 suicide drones, his forces have since taken out around 40 per cent of Ukraine’s generating capacity.

While Ukraine is believed to be taking out the majority of the incoming drones and missiles, enough are making it through to cause considerable damage.

Attacks on civilian infrastructure are a war crime under international law.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Dr Bronk said: ‘So far Russia has fired between 400 and 500 of [the Iranian drones] with as many as 2,600 on order…

‘[Ukraine] needs large numbers of [shoulder-launched missiles] and anti-aircraft guns so that they can start repairing a lot of the electricity substations and things that are being hit…

‘To be quite blunt if they don’t get better equipment and a better ability to defend against these Shahed missiles then thousands of Ukrainian are going to freeze to death over the winter.’

Speaking overnight, President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Putin is ‘concentrating forces and means for a possible repetition of mass attacks on our infrastructure. First of all, energy.’

More than 4.5 million people are already without power, Zelensky said, amid concerns that support for Ukraine could waver as the war’s impact on energy and food prices persists into winter.

Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said earlier on Twitter that Ukraine would ‘stand’ despite Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure, by marshalling air defence, protecting infrastructure and optimising consumption to do so.

The country faced a projected shortfall of 32 per cent in power supply on Monday, Sergei Kovalenko, the chief executive of YASNO, a major provider of energy to the capital, said on his Facebook page.

The warnings followed remarks by Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko urging residents to ‘consider everything’, including a worst-case scenario in which the capital loses power and water.

Residents should consider ‘spending some time’ with friends or family outside the city, he said in a television interview on Saturday, in which he accused Putin of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure.

‘His task is for us to die, to freeze, or to make us flee our land so that he can have it. That’s what the aggressor wants to achieve,’ Klitschko added.

In the south, Russia and Ukraine continued to trade accusations as Ukraine advances on the city of Kherson. Reuters was unable to immediately verify battlefield accounts from either side.

Regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said Russian forces destroyed about 1.5km of power lines, cutting supply to the city of Beryslav.

‘It is likely that there will be no electricity in Beryslav until it is fully freed from occupation,’ Yanushevych wrote on the Telegram messaging app, adding that power lines to Kherson had also been destroyed.

Russia has made extensive use of cheap Iranian-made suicide drones (file image) in the energy attacks and is thought to have thousands more on order

On Sunday, Russian news agencies said shelling by Ukrainian forces damaged Ukraine’s vast Russian-held Nova Kakhovka dam, upstream of Kherson on the Dnipro river. They gave no supporting evidence, and Reuters could not immediately verify the reports.

Russian state-owned TASS quoted an emergency services representative as saying a rocket launched by a U.S.-made HIMARS missile system had hit the dam’s lock, damaging it.

The official called the incident an ‘attempt to create the conditions for a humanitarian catastrophe’ by breaching the dam.

The warnings came as the Wall Street Journal said US National Security Adviser Sullivan held confidential conversations in recent months with Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov and Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev.

Few high-level contacts between U.S. and Russian officials have been made public in recent months, as Washington has insisted that any talks on ending the war in Ukraine be held between Moscow and Kyiv.

The White House declined to comment on the report, responding only with a statement attributed to National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson: ‘People claim a lot of things.’

Ukraine needs shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles and anti-air batteries with radar in order to stop its power plants being hit (file image)

On Saturday, the Washington Post said the United States is privately encouraging Ukraine to signal an openness to negotiate with Russia, as the State Department said Moscow was escalating the war and did not seriously wish to engage in peace talks.

The paper cited unidentified sources as saying the request by American officials was not aimed at pushing Ukraine to the negotiating table, but a calculated attempt to ensure Kyiv maintains the support of other nations.

Zelensky signed a decree on October 4 formally declaring the prospect of any Ukrainian talks with Putin ‘impossible’ but leaving the door open to talks with Russia.

The White House National Security Council had no immediate comment on the accuracy of the report.

A State Department spokesperson responded: ‘We’ve said it before and will say it again: Actions speak louder than words. If Russia is ready for negotiation, it should stop its bombs and missiles and withdraw its forces from Ukraine.’

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