Europe

In Kharkiv, the tireless work of electricians to help Ukrainians get through the winter

ProDentim

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In the recently liberated region of Kharkiv, while the bombardments have ceased, the energy infrastructures are still at a standstill. In the middle of winter, the situation is critical in the villages of southern and eastern Ukraine. Report by our special correspondents Elena Volochine, Abdelkader Dermas and Andrew Hilliar.

One and a half billion euros is the amount Ukraine will need to temporarily repair its energy infrastructure, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky. In this winter period, kyiv and major Ukrainian cities are still experiencing power cuts due to cruise missile and drone strikes received by Russia. And in the villages in the south and east of the country, where the infrastructure is totally destroyed after several months of fighting, the situation is all the more critical.

In Kharkivoblenergo, a village in the Kharkiv region, electricians are working hard to try to restore electricity. A transformer station, located barely ten kilometers from the Russian border, was hit by a bombardment.

>> To watch also: In the regions of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv, the hour of reconstruction

“Do you see this crater?” shows engineer Oleksandr Ganous. “It’s the result of artillery fire. The station’s equipment was damaged. And because of that, several villages in this town are without electricity.”

In this zone, located on the front line until the reconquest by the Ukrainian army at the beginning of September, the villages suffered five to seven months of intense artillery combat. The electricians deployed on site work in constant danger. Oleksandr’s predecessor died by jumping on a mine. And the weather is not helping.

“Under the current conditions, explains Olesksandr, where we can, we only restore electricity distribution towards the summer. Several of our infrastructures are on the border with Russia. We cannot even access them, the soldiers won’t let us pass.”

“On a spent five months in the cellar”

In this village, almost every house suffered from the bombardments. Despite this, some inhabitants have never left and are preparing to spend the winter there.

“We spent five months in the cellar,” says Viktor, one of the villagers. “I slept here, with my dog”, describes the man, by pointing to a narrow space arranged along the wall of the cellar, next to a supply of storage boxes. “And my wife was sleeping there.”

Recovering from a wound injured by shrapnel, after almost ten months without electricity, Viktor has adapted to life without running water or light. But with winter, he also has to make up for the lack of firewood for his stove.

“It’s winter and I have to go and saw trees destroyed by shrapnel, explains the man. I came home and my hands were frozen, because everything is wet.”

But what he fears above all is that the bombardments will resume. “After what we survived this summer, everything seems trivial to us, he develops. As long as they don’t start bombing again.”

Of the approximately 2,000 inhabitants of the village before the war, only twenty-five still survived among the ruins, thanks to humanitarian aid from abroad.

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