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Russia strikes, Ukraine fixes, in battle to survive winter: NPR


Ukrainians march through the unlit streets of the capital Kyiv on Thursday, a day after Russian airstrikes knocked out electricity, heating and water in much of the country. As Russian troops fare badly on the battlefield, Russia launched a massive bombing campaign targeting civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

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Russia strikes, Ukraine fixes, in battle to survive winter: NPR

Ukrainians march through the unlit streets of the capital Kyiv on Thursday, a day after Russian airstrikes knocked out electricity, heating and water in much of the country. As Russian troops fare badly on the battlefield, Russia launched a massive bombing campaign targeting civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

KYIV, Ukraine – When Ukrainian soldier Viktor Ganich received a brief leave from his military unit, he went to live in his mother and stepfather’s apartment in Kyiv.

Then came a early morning dam Russian drone attacks on the city.
A drone hit the apartment where Ganich was staying. He survived. His mother and stepfather were killed.

“Honestly, it’s a very weird feeling,” Ganich said. “Because on the front line I witnessed bullets above my head, tank fire, mortar fire, and I survived. And when I came here to Kyiv, it is strange, because I feel like it’s fate.”

Russia dramatically stepped up its air campaign last month with waves of drones and missiles.

In the latest barrage, Russia fired 70 cruise missiles on Wednesday. This cut off electricity, heat and water in many towns and further damaged the already fragile electrical system. These basic services returned regularly on Thursday and Friday.

Ukraine said it shot down 50 of the 70 missiles on Wednesday. The figure could not be independently confirmed. But that lines up with other recent claims from Ukraine, which says it usually knocks out two-thirds to three-quarters of incoming shots.

But Russian weapons that hit their targets cause serious damage.

Russia strikes, Ukraine fixes, in battle to survive winter: NPR

Ukrainian firefighters put out a fire in a building hit by a Russian missile in Kyiv. Russia fired 70 missiles into Ukraine on Wednesday, the latest barrage in a stepped-up air campaign against the country’s civilian infrastructure.

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images


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Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Russia strikes, Ukraine fixes, in battle to survive winter: NPR

Ukrainian firefighters put out a fire in a building hit by a Russian missile in Kyiv. Russia fired 70 missiles into Ukraine on Wednesday, the latest barrage in a stepped-up air campaign against the country’s civilian infrastructure.

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

A need for more air defenses

“Ukraine does not have enough firepower to be fully protected from the sky. That is why we ask the whole world to help Ukraine by all means,” said Colonel Yurii Ihnat, carrier. Ukrainian Air Force word.

Ukraine’s limited air defenses were designed to protect key military and government sites. But recent and more widespread Russian attacks have left Ukraine unable to protect all potential targets in the energy sector.

Ukraine says most of the country’s power plants and substations have been hit and damaged since the start of the heightened Russian air campaign on October 10.

The result so far is power outages, which usually last about four hours at a stretch. The most worrying prospect is that of prolonged outages during the coldest days of winter.

“I think Ukraine faces a real challenge from a concerted Russian strike campaign that is focused on the power grid,” said Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at CNA, a research group just outside Washington.

“I think it’s having an impact on the weather. Ukraine is able to handle it right now, fixing the power cuts. And most of the Ukrainian cities, which I’ve seen, are adopting saving measures They’re pretty dark at night even though they have electricity,” he added.

Russia strikes, Ukraine fixes, in battle to survive winter: NPR

Ukrainians line up to eat near a painting by graffiti artist Banksy on the wall of a destroyed building in Horenka, Ukraine, outside the capital Kyiv.

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images


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Russia strikes, Ukraine fixes, in battle to survive winter: NPR

Ukrainians line up to eat near a painting by graffiti artist Banksy on the wall of a destroyed building in Horenka, Ukraine, outside the capital Kyiv.

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Drones represent a new type of threat

Ukraine has been grappling with Russian ballistic missiles and cruise missiles since the start of the war.

Now Russia is also firing swarms of loud, low-flying, slow-moving drones acquired from Iran. This further complicated Ukraine’s air defenses.

“Drones can hover, which makes them different from a missile, and then decide to dive into a bomb and explode on impact,” said Kelly Grieco of the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank.

She says all of these Russian weapons require different defenses.

“I don’t think there are probably enough air defense systems in the world to be able to create the kind of impenetrable barrier that we would like to see possible right now,” she said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently announced the arrival of new Western air defenses. They include a US contribution known as NASAMS, which protects the White House and other government buildings in Washington.

It certainly helps, says Michael Kofman. But integrating different weapon systems is tricky. He noted that Ukraine now operates 14 separate artillery systems, many of which were sent from the West this year.

“The problem is that if they get a few air defense systems and they have a few batteries of each, it creates persistent challenges for maintenance, operation and training,” Kofman said.

These challenges play out daily. In a building in central Kyiv, a Russian missile recently crashed on the third floor, killing an elderly woman.

Electricity was cut in the neighborhood. In the dark streets, I asked a young man, Vladimir Yanachuk, if Ukrainians were ready for this winter.

“The Ukrainians are not afraid. The winter will be harsh. But this winter will be harsh, not only for the Ukrainians, but also for the Russian soldiers,” he said.

As we were talking, the lights suddenly turned on in the surrounding apartment buildings. That night, at least, there would be electricity and heat.

Greg Myre is an NPR national security correspondent currently on assignment in Ukraine. follow him @gregmyre1.




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