In the dark, the inside light of a car flickered next to large apartment blocks in Odesa, Ukraine.
The front seats were filled with a young couple wearing furry dresses over layers of clothing. They were enjoying a short respite from the cold by charging their phones.
Natallia Bovkush and Oleh Yaskovets claimed that they have been without electricity for nearly two days since Russian drone strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
The pair laughed when they were asked how they felt.
Oleh, 28, who is behind the wheel, said that “Things don’t look great.” Condensation has made everything wet in our flat.
His 24-year-old wife, in bright pink dress, stated that it was 14-15 degrees inside. It’s therefore more comfortable to drive in our car, and slightly warmer.
According to President Zelenskyy, Russia launched 15 Iranian suicide drones. These drones are so-called because they explode on impact. They were used against the electricity infrastructure in this port and the surrounding Odesa area in southern Ukraine overnight into Saturday.
He claimed that his country had managed to kill 10 but that only five of them were able to hit their targets. This left 1.5 million people without electricity at first.
Engineers spent the weekend trying to repair the damage.
On Sunday evening, many parts of central Odesa were seeing the lights turn on again.
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However, there were still some residential areas in the outskirts that were completely dark – even though streetlights and traffic lights were out.
Many parts of the country, including Odesa, are already experiencing rolling blackouts at specific times throughout the day in order to conserve the limited power available after waves of Russian strikes on power stations and substations since October.
After setbacks on battlefield, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems determined to break Ukraine’s resistance in an unconventional way: by turning off heat, light, and water.
His forces used a combination missile strike and unmanned Iranian aircraft swarms to penetrate the Ukrainian air defenses.
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After Russia exhausted their stockpiles, the drone strikes seemed to have stopped towards the end last month. They have resumed in recent days after the UK warned that the Kremlin may have received a resupply form Iran.
These energy attacks left entire cities, towns, and villages in darkness for many hours.
It was amazing to see the changes in living conditions compared to September when I was last in Ukraine. Even the capital Kyiv is not immune from the effects.
However, engineers from Ukraine are working round the clock to repair the damage and fight back.
People are also learning resilience and adaptability. They wear lots of layers, use candles and torches, and stock up on bottled water.
They know that they must do everything possible to minimize the effects of the power going off.
Authorities have established “points of Invincibility”, which are buildings that provide electricity and heat in more secure locations, such as schools and train stations.
These places are open to local residents who want to plug in, heat their tea and enjoy a cup of coffee.
At Odesa’s fire station, we visited the point of invincibility.
Iryna Kryvonos (44), said that she and her family, her husband, 47, as well as their two sons (20 and 8 years old), had been without power for four days. They were learning new survival skills.
Iryna, a teacher, smiled and said, “We are here to enjoy warmth with hot tea, and we are charging our devices.” Even, we try to play cards at our home with candles.
While people are resilient, complete blackouts – unlike the more predictable and planned ones – can cause severe hardship. They could also lead to a humanitarian crisis if temperatures drop during winter.
Residents of Odesa were worried about Russia’s worst intentions. They vowed to never surrender.
Pavlo and Anjelina Kartashova, both in their 50s used torchlight to get to their apartment block’s entrance.
Anjelina stated that everyone will survive in whatever way possible. “We wait for victory, then everything will be okay.”
Her husband said, “We will only put on more warm clothing, but we won’t give up.” Ukrainians will not give up!