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Bombed, not defeated: the capital of Ukraine goes into survival mode

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — Residents of Ukraine’s bombed-out but undeterred capital clutched empty bottles for water and flocked to coffee shops for power and warmth Thursday, defiantly switching to survival mode after new Russian missile attacks plunged the day before city ​​and most of the country into darkness.

In scenes that are hard to believe in the sophisticated city of 3 million, some Kyiv residents resorted to harvesting rainwater from sewer pipes while repair crews worked to restore supplies.

Friends and family members exchanged messages to find out who got their electricity and water back. Some had one but not the other. The previous day’s air attack on the Ukrainian power grid left many without any of them.

Cafes in Kiev, which by some small miracle quickly became 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 apartment, but the electricity was not. His freezer thawed during a power outage, leaving a puddle on the floor.

So he jumped in a taxi and crossed the Dnieper from the left bank to the right bank, to a coffee shop he noticed had been open after previous Russian air raids. Indeed, it was open, serving hot drinks, hot food, and with music and Wi-Fi on.

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

Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said that around 70% of the Ukrainian capital was still without electricity on Thursday morning.

With the cold rain pouring down and the remnants of the previous snowfall still on the streets, the mood was gloomy but steely. Winter promises to be a long one. But Ukrainians say that if Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intention is to break them, he should reconsider.

“No one will compromise their will and principles just for electricity,” said 34-year-old Alina Dubeiko. She, too, sought comfort in another equally crowded, warm, and lit cafe. Without electricity, heating or water at home, she was determined to continue her routine. Adapting to a life devoid of the usual comforts, Dubeiko said she uses two glasses of water to wash, then puts her hair in a ponytail and is ready to go.

She said she’d rather live without electricity than with the Russian invasion, which surpassed nine months on Thursday.

“Without light or you? Without you,” she said, echoing President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks as Russia unleashed the first in a series of airstrikes on key Ukrainian infrastructure on October 10.

Western leaders condemned the bombing campaign. “Strikes against civilian infrastructure are war crimes,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tried Thursday to blame the civil difficulties on the Ukrainian government.

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

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

“Ukraine does not consider your country, and especially your people, an enemy, and we are not planning any aggressive actions on the territory of the Republic of Belarus,” the General Staff said in a Thursday statement.

In Kiev, people lined up at public water stations to fill plastic bottles. In a strange time of war, new to her, 31-year-old employee of the Health Department, Kateryna Łuczkina, resorted to collecting rainwater from the gutter to at least wash her hands at work where there was no water. She filled two plastic bottles, patiently waiting in the rain for them to fill to the brim with water. The friend followed her, doing the same.

“We Ukrainians are so resourceful that we will come up with something. We are not losing heart,” Luchkina said. “We work, we live in the rhythm of survival or something like that, as much as we can. We don’t lose hope that everything will be fine.”

The mayor said in a Telegram that energy engineers were “doing everything they can” to restore electricity. Water repair crews were also making progress. In the early afternoon, Klitschko announced that water supplies had been restored across the capital, with the caveat that “some consumers may still experience low water pressure.”

Energy, heat and water gradually returned elsewhere as well. In Ukraine’s southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region, the governor announced that 3,000 miners who were trapped underground due to power outages had been rescued. The regional authority posted messages on social media notifying people of the progress of the repairs, but also saying they needed time.

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

In the southern city of Kherson, which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces two weeks ago, hospitals’ struggle with power and water shortages has been intensified by Russian attacks.

Olena Zhura was carrying bread to her neighbors on Thursday when a strike that destroyed half of her home in Kherson injured her husband Victor. The paramedics dragged Victor away, who was writhing in pain.

“I was in shock,” she said, bursting into tears. “Then I heard (him) screaming, ‘Save me, save me.’

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AP journalist Sam Mednick from Kherson, Ukraine, contributed to this.

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