Kyiv, Ukraine — Residents of the bombed-out Ukrainian capital clutched empty bottles in search of water and crowded into cafes for electricity and heat on Thursday, defiantly switching to survival mode after fresh Russian missile attacks hit the city a day earlier and plunged much of the country into darkness.
In scenes hard to believe in a sophisticated city of 3 million, some Kiev residents resorted to collecting rainwater from drains while repair teams worked to reconnect the supply.
Friends and family members exchanged messages to find out who had power and water back. Some had one, some didn’t. The previous day’s airstrike on Ukraine’s power grid left many with neither.
Cafes in Kyiv, which, thanks to a small miracle, quickly became oases of coziness on Thursday.
Oleksiy Rashchupkin, a 39-year-old investment banker, awoke to find his third-floor apartment had the water connected but no electricity. His freezer thawed during the power outage, leaving a puddle on its floor.
So he got into a taxi and crossed the Dnieper from the left bank to the right bank to a café he had noticed had stayed open after previous Russian strikes. In fact, hot drinks and hot food were served and the music and wifi were on.
“I’m here because there’s heating, coffee and light,” he said. “Here is life.”
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said about 70 percent of the Ukrainian capital was still without power as of Thursday morning.
As Kyiv and other cities rebounded, Kherson on Thursday came under the heaviest bombardment since Ukrainian forces recaptured the southern city two weeks ago. The rocket fire killed four people outside a coffee shop and a woman was also killed next to her home, witnesses told Associated Press reporters.
In Kyiv, where cold rain fell on the remnants of previous snowfalls, the mood was somber but steely. Winter promises to be long. But Ukrainians say if Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to break them, he should reconsider.
“No one will risk their will and principles just for electricity,” said Alina Dubeiko, 34. She, too, sought the comfort of another equally crowded, warm and lit cafe. With no electricity, heating or water at home, she was determined to keep going at work. Adapting to life bereft of its usual comforts, Dubeiko says she uses two glasses of water to wash, then ties her hair in a ponytail and is ready for her work day.
She said she would rather be without power than live with the Russian invasion, which passed the nine-month mark on Thursday.
“Without light or you? Without you,” she said, echoing statements made by President Volodymyr Zelenskky when Russia unleashed the first in a series of airstrikes on key Ukrainian infrastructure on October 10.
Western leaders denounced the bombing campaign. “Strikes against civilian infrastructure are war crimes,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov admitted on Thursday that it was targeting Ukrainian power plants. But he said they are linked to Ukraine’s military command and control system and the goal is to cut off the flow of Ukrainian troops, arms and ammunition to the front lines.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said: “We are conducting strikes against infrastructure in response to the rampant flow of arms into Ukraine and Kyiv’s reckless appeals to defeat Russia.”
In Kyiv, people queued up at public water points to fill plastic bottles. In what was for her a strange new wartime, 31-year-old health worker Kateryna Luchkina first resorted to collecting rainwater from a drainpipe so she could at least wash her hands at work where there was no water. She filled two plastic bottles and waited patiently in the rain until they were filled to the brim with water. A colleague followed her and did the same.
“We Ukrainians are so imaginative, we will come up with something. We don’t lose our spirit,” Luchkina said. “We work, live as much as possible in the rhythm of survival or something. We don’t lose hope that everything will be fine.”
The city’s mayor said on Telegram that power engineers are “doing their best” to restore power. Water repair teams also made progress. In the early afternoon, Klitschko announced that the water supply had been restored throughout the capital.
with the caveat that “some consumers may still experience low water pressure”.
Elsewhere, too, electricity, heat and water gradually came back. In the southeastern Ukrainian region of Dnepropetrovsk, the governor announced that 3,000 miners trapped underground due to power outages have been rescued. Regional authorities have posted messages on social media updating people on the progress of repairs but also saying they need time.
Faced with the difficulties – now and throughout the winter – authorities are opening up thousands of so-called “points of invincibility” – heated and powered rooms offering hot meals, electricity and internet connections. More than 3,700 were open across the country as of Thursday morning, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official in the presidential office.
In Kherson, too, hospitals without electricity or water are grappling with the gruesome aftermath of the intensifying Russian strikes. They hit residential and commercial buildings on Thursday, setting some on fire, blowing ash into the sky and shattering glass across streets. Paramedics helped the injured.
Olena Zhura was carrying bread to her neighbors when a strike that destroyed half of their house injured her husband Victor. He writhed in pain as the paramedics carried him away.
“I was shocked,” she said, bursting into tears. “Then I heard (him) scream, ‘Save me, save me.’
Mednick reported from Kherson, Ukraine.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine