Hryhoriy Mamka: “Strikes on critical infrastructure. What else can Ukrainians expect this winter?”

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The energy sector is one of the main current targets of Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine. The full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation began 4 hours after the power system of our country was disconnected from the power systems of the Russian Federation and Belarus.

That is, Ukraine went into an isolated mode of operation in preparation for the future synchronization with the European unified energy system. And instead of the planned three days, the Ukrainian power system was maintained for three whole weeks, working in an isolated mode, despite active hostilities. Already on March 16, Ukraine was synchronized with the unified European energy system ENTSO-E.

Currently, it is known that Russia has damaged about 40% of the entire energy infrastructure of our country with regular attacks using missiles and drones. Only according to preliminary estimates, as of September 1, 2022, the direct damage caused to the infrastructure of the Ukrainian energy industry amounts to 3.6 billion dollars. And these numbers grow with each Russian strike. In October, Russia decided to resort to new terrorist tactics and take revenge for the defeat on the fronts, striking the energy infrastructure with missiles and kamikaze drones. According to the Ukrainian government, only in the first two weeks of October, 30% of energy infrastructure facilities were destroyed.

Currently, we, Ukrainians, live in the realities of scheduled and emergency power outages, which have already become commonplace. But no one rejects the possibility of a blackout, on the contrary, we hear about it more and more often. I think it is important to understand the interpretation of this concept and what blackout actually entails.

Therefore, a blackout is a complete loss of controllability of the power system, when no command from the dispatcher or physical switching of the equipment leads to the restoration of the power supply. It is necessary to understand that only those specialists who have access to a large array of information and special simulation programs can predict the onset of such a moment. Therefore, any predictions about the so-called loss of controllability of the energy system from persons who are far from understanding the current state and subtleties of the operation of the energy system are irrelevant. It is important to trust only official sources and information coming from NEC “Ukrenergo” and the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine. There is one extremely important nuance here, namely the issue of security, in particular, its strengthening, especially at such a time.

With its terrorist acts, Russia destroys various parts of energy systems, which in turn help transform, transport, and distribute electricity to homes and businesses in Ukraine. The Russian Federation clearly knows where to strike, because for it this is a well-thought-out tactic, which consists in striking precisely at powerful substations, which are a kind of connecting links between generating facilities and distribution networks that supply electricity to consumers. The so-called “delivery” of electricity to the city passes precisely through these substations. By damaging them, the Russians cut the power lines that actually go from the power plants to the cities.

In this matter, the military of the Russian Federation, who carry out these murderous orders, are consulted by Russian energy experts, who in turn point out the targets and systematicity of the attacks, because after a certain time has passed to assess the damage, the Russians resort to repeated attacks on the same objects. In this way, the Russian Federation seeks to reduce Ukraine’s energy capacity and limit the civilian population’s access to electricity. That is, we can single out such cynical goals of the terrorist state as:

  • To inflict as much hardship and suffering as possible on the population of Ukraine.
  • Increase pressure on the authorities
  • Transfer resources, divert attention from the front line.

In this difficult time for our country, support from partner states, which we can call Ukraine’s energy donors, is more important than ever. In order to operate under these conditions, the Energy Support Fund was created together with the Secretariat of the Energy Community. Together with the Secretariat of the Ministry of Energy, he coordinates the supply to Ukraine of equipment and materials for repairs and restoration of energy facilities and networks as humanitarian aid. Applications for the distribution of this type of assistance are submitted by all companies in the energy sector – both public and private. Supply volumes are measured in hundreds of tons from dozens of countries around the world. But, given the scale of Russian shelling, our energy workers need much more help. Some of the partner countries help financially, some of them with equipment and sanctions against the Russian Federation.

If we speak in the language of numbers, since the beginning of the war, our state has received 176 shipments of humanitarian aid from EU countries and Great Britain (this is about 1,907 tons of materials and equipment). And this help continues to grow. As you know, the US recently announced a new support package for Ukraine in the amount of 53 million dollars per “acquisition of important electrical network equipment”, which one “will be delivered to Ukraine as soon as possible”. According to this aid, we have to get distribution transformers, circuit breakers, surge protectors, disconnectors and other critical equipment.

The Netherlands will also provide equipment for the restoration of energy infrastructure facilities. Austria delivered more than 217 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukrainian energy companies. Germany announced the transfer of more than 350 generators and financial assistance for the repair of energy infrastructure. Lithuania has already allocated more than 7 million to Ukraine for the restoration of energy infrastructure, as well as sent transformers and generators. It is known that Japan will provide 242 generators, and the second stage of assistance will involve the supply of transformers, switches, disconnectors, cables, wires, insulators and other equipment. The Ministry of Energy announced the transfer of 100 generators for the heating season from France. In addition, the United States of America is working on creating a working group to help Ukraine repair energy equipment and protect power plants. This should be an analogue of the Defense Contract Group (Ramstein).

Given the above-mentioned circumstances, we understand that the situation remains difficult, and it is impossible to predict how events will develop further. Currently, heating points are being prepared in various regions of Ukraine, and “points of invincibility” are also functioning. Premises of schools and kindergartens, cultural institutions and administrative buildings can also be equipped with heating points.

Ukrzaliznytsia is also involved in the creation of so-called “warm locations”. More than 30 train stations in cities that receive migrants will be equipped with everything necessary to warm up and wait out the lack of heating in houses. These premises will be heated by generators. In particular, these are stations in Zaporizhia, Vinnytsia, Khmelnytskyi, Kamianets-Podilskyi, Berdychev, Rivne, Kryvyi Rih, Kovel, Kolomyia, Mukachevo, Truskavets, Morshyn, Zhmeryntsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, Chopa, Uzhhorod, Zhytomyr, Myronivtsi, Chernihiv, Trostyanka, Sumy, Kharkiv, Odesa, Cherkassy, ​​Kropyvnytskyi, Berdychev, Ternopil, Lviv and at Tarasa Shevchenko and Darnytsia metro stations.

In addition, the State Emergency Service undertook to equip 400 stationary and 100 mobile heating points in the de-occupied regions. The Emergency Situations Service previously agreed with the European Commissioner to provide Ukrainian cities with a thousand mobile heating points equipped with generators. Such points will be sent to dangerous, front-line and recently liberated regions at the request of the regional military administration.

However, conditions for wintering in the de-occupied regions of Kherson and Kharkiv regions remain extremely difficult. Part of the citizens who left before the occupation will not return for the winter, taking into account all the circumstances. But, at the same time, there remains a significant part of those people who survived the occupation and are still there. For example, according to the city military administration of the city of Vovchansk, which is located a few kilometers from the border with the Russian Federation, there are major problems with heating there. Local authorities urge to spend the winter in other regions. As a result of the Russian shelling, the power grid is damaged, and the electric convectors cannot save the situation.

Despite the fact that Ukrainian energy engineers are working to restore electricity supply to restored regions, Russia’s terrorist activities are not abating, which complicates this process. The state notes that it is planned to accommodate forced migrants in modular towns, and the “Shelter” program is also in operation. Currently, there are 5,670 places for compact living, but according to state authorities, their number is constantly increasing. Free firewood is delivered to residents of de-occupied settlements of the Kherson region to heat their homes. For this, citizens need to contact local self-government bodies or military administrations.

So, Ukraine’s ability to fully function in winter conditions depends on things like the frequency and ferocity of Russian attacks. In this context, air defense systems are effective help and countermeasures. Ukraine needs powerful air defense systems that save both people’s lives and critical infrastructure facilities. It is necessary to intensify the supply of air defense in the form of large-caliber machine guns that shoot down Iranian drones.

If we consider the scenario of a complete blackout, then this in turn directly affects the increase in theft, looting, robberies and fraud. Of course, security is also necessary during planned and emergency shutdowns, so it is appropriate to talk about a significant increase in the number of law enforcement officers on the streets. We must be prepared for various possible scenarios, because it is impossible to predict the actions of the enemy, so the issue of protection and security of citizens needs immediate resolution. That is why the Ministry of Internal Affairs and law enforcement agencies should prepare to work in an intensified mode. In this situation, it is advisable to have a work plan ready, which will include increased protection and security.

In addition, finding spare parts for repair is one of the biggest problems. Ukrainian energy companies are not fully equipped with stocks of spare parts, which are difficult to replace. For example, the production time of one large transformer is usually 12 months. The bureaucratic process does not disappear anywhere. For example, if a foreign company agrees to transfer or sell, but needs permission or assistance from its government. This delays the assistance process. It is important that this process be simplified, taking into account the conditions in which it is contracted and supplied.

We hear about the possible evacuation of the population, in particular, of Kyiv and other cities every day in the information environment. But how it will happen under a possible scenario remains a mystery, although it is already December. Considering that in the conditions of a total blackout, when there may be no electricity or communication, the presence of people in the city will turn out to be a global problem. Not to mention transportation. On the other hand, the whole country is now under missile threat, and the situation in Lviv can hardly differ from Kyiv. That is, the conditional front line, where cold and darkness reign, can be anywhere. In this context, the issue of heating points does not disappear anywhere. The importance of their functioning and understanding how many people they can accommodate remains urgent. In addition, how can elderly people get to these points?

Therefore, it is extremely important to have a clear scenario, and not chaotic actions and differing words of energy companies, state structures and local authorities. It is important to convey this action plan to people now. I am sure that our Ukraine will overcome all difficulties, winter ones as well, but having a clear and understandable plan will only help Ukrainians and reduce panic in the environment.

Hryhoriy Mamka

People’s Deputy of Ukraine, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Law Enforcement Activities.

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