Ukrainian officials are optimistic that rolling power outages will not be necessary around the New Year holidays as crews work to repair the country’s power grid, which has been battered by Russian strikes.
Although the grid remains fragile and many Ukrainians still lack reliable power, officials have noted improvements in recent days. In one of his nightly addresses earlier this week, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said that “the number and duration of outages is still gradually decreasing” across the country.
The country’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, said this week that in the absence of more Russian shelling, there would not be a need for emergency power shutdowns over New Year this weekend, according to a statement posted on the Telegram messaging app. Other holidays are also approaching: Many Orthodox Christians begin Christmas celebrations on Jan. 6.
Mr. Shmyhal also said that crews had been repairing some of the country’s critical infrastructure, including two thermal power plant units on Tuesday.
Repairs have become one of Ukraine’s priorities in recent months as repeated waves of Russian strikes on the country’s power grid have left tens of millions of Ukrainians without reliable power and heat in the winter cold. Many residents have been experiencing unpredictable outages and long periods without running water. But even as utility crews rush to make repairs, new attacks endanger — or undo — some of their work.
Last week in Kyiv, there was enough power for only 20 percent of the population. And as of two weeks ago, all of Ukraine’s thermal and hydroelectric power plants had been damaged by Russian strikes, according to Mr. Shmyhal.
Herman Halushchenko, the country’s energy minister, struck a more ominous tone this week, warning that Russia might use New Year’s Eve as an opportunity to strike power systems again, according to local media.
Mr. Halushchenko said that although the country’s power deficit was shrinking overall and crews were working around the clock to keep the system going, he was cautious about making any predictions about what might happen in the coming weeks.
Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s national energy company, said on Wednesday that restrictions on electricity consumption were still in effect across all regions to deal with power shortages, although for the fourth day in a row, none would need to be applied at night because temperatures were relatively high, according to a statement on Telegram.
The statement also said that the country’s electricity deficit had grown in the past day because of the shelling of gas infrastructure in Ukraine’s eastern region but added that no further energy restrictions would be put in place.
Bridget Brink, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said in a statement on Wednesday that the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv was “proud to carry out the secretary of state’s mission to work day and night with Ukrainian partners to help keep the energy grid up and running through the winter.”