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EXCLUSIVE in-depth Energy War in Ukraine

After Russian Strikes: Will Ukraine Be Plunged into Darkness Again?

An exclusive video from one of the thermal power plants recently hit by Russian missiles.

Apr. 30

The Ukrainian energy sector has suffered heavy losses from the latest Russian missile strikes and will need additional air defense equipment from its allies as soon as possible. But much damage has been done.

Russia resumed strikes on the Ukrainian energy sector in March and April. As a result of several combined strikes involving the Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones and various types of missiles, the largest thermal power plants in Ukraine were destroyed – Zmiyivska, near Kharkiv, Trypillya, near Kyiv, Ladyzhynska, in the central part of the country, and Burshtyn in the West.

Kyiv Post received permission from the Ukrainian energy company DTEK – the largest private operator of energy systems – to visit a thermal power plant that suffered heavy damage from Russian missile strikes.

Concrete and metal are charred, twisted and broken. The remains of turbines and power lines are strewn about. The roof is missing. Ruin remains of what were the walls of the power unit. At first glance, these images might evoke memories of the aftermath of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster at Reactor No. 4.

However, this is the wreckage of one of Ukraine’s biggest thermal power plants after recent Russian missile strikes.

Yurii, an employee at the station, recalls the events of a month ago.

“First, I read that missiles were heading in our direction. I got ready for work, heard the first explosion, and then there were many more,” he told Kyiv Post.

We walk through the ruins of what was once a station. Yurii isn’t attending to his normal duties in operations at the power station. Rather, along with many other employees, his job is sorting through the rubble and dismantling what remains of the station.

According to Oleksandr, one of the station's managers, the fire at the station was because Russian missiles ignited oil in the turbo generators. Now, turbine elements lie on the floor, amidst the ash.

“This is how Turbine Hall looks after the missile attack. The turbine contained approximately 50 tons of oil, and the generator used hydrogen for cooling. During the missile strike, everything spilled out and burst into a terrible fire. The destruction is severe. The engine room was affected, and the main equipment – turbines, all the equipment of the turbine Department, and transformers – were destroyed,” Oleksandr said.

Station employees attempted to tame the fire with extinguishers before firefighters arrived. The worst part was waiting for a second blow.

It was terrifying to see the fire, smoke, everything destroyed, with no roof. We couldn't even get here right away; the fire was too intense,” Yurii said.

Stations like yhis one provided a significant portion of Ukrainian electricity generation, said DTEK Energo CEO Dmytro Sakharuk.

“We had three major attacks. March 22, March 29, and April 11 on energy infrastructure in Ukraine as a whole... We have only six stations, and 80 percent of our capacity has been destroyed or damaged. Without exception, all the stations located in the west of the country, in the east, and in the center – were hit and suffered destruction, both in generation and network,” Sakharuk said in an exclusive interview with the Kyiv Post.

He said that the degree of destruction is such that it will be impossible to restore the stations in the near future.

“Hr. 200-250 million ($5-$6.3 million) is needed to restore equipment, and another 40-50 percent of this sum is the cost of work. It will take weeks to clear the rubble, and recovery will take months. Approximately 12 to 18 months,” Sakharuk said.

Along with thermal power plants, the Russians have also attacked hydroelectric power plants, particularly the Dnipro Dam – the largest hydroelectric power station in Ukraine – destroying approximately 8 gigawatts of energy production. Overall, according to the Ministry of Energy, Ukraine has lost up to 50 percent of its electricity generation.

Until recovery, Ukraine will face a shortage of electricity production, which means new blackouts are probable. Already, regular blackouts are occurring in Kharkiv, Odesa, and many other frontline cities. And the blackouts increase with new missile hits on Ukrainian energy infrastructure.

The purpose of the strikes remains unchanged. This is terror against the population of Ukraine and its economy to force surrender, Deputy Energy Minister Svitlana Grynchuk said.

“Their main goal is for Ukraine to cease to exist simply. Targeted attacks against the energy system aim to greatly weaken the economy because energy is the foundation of all processes. This includes logistics, and production; without electricity, it will be impossible to even discuss sustaining life,” says Grynchuk.

A lack of power to hospitals, social services, and industry can lead to humanitarian catastrophes and refugee crises.

That said, there may be a way out, Hrynchuk said.

Negotiations are underway with former Eastern Bloc countries, particularly those with Soviet-made turbo generators similar to those destroyed. And there is an agreement with at least one country already – Latvia, which sent a transformer from its Riga dam.

“There are agreements with our partners that those thermal power plants they have closed due to obsolescence or European environmental restrictions can provide equipment for us. We have already inspected this equipment, and there is already an agreement with one country to transfer the elements of thermal power plants that we need,” the deputy minister says.

Sakharuk mentions responses from Poland, Bulgaria, Greece, and the Baltic States. However, acquiring new equipment is futile if Ukraine does not receive new air defense systems and ammunition for existing air defense systems soon, otherwise, everything will be destroyed.

“We can restore everything. But without sufficient protection, everything will be destroyed. The station must be protected with air defense so that the story of destruction does not repeat itself. There are simply not enough missiles to shoot down everything that flies, even with installations. I must also mention that the Russians are advancing. They invest in improving missile performance. They have become more accurate,” Sakharuk said.

However, this does not deter Yurii and Oleksadr, who despite the lack of air defense systems, clear rubble and attempt to salvage equipment.

 “What can I say about Russia? I probably can't say anything except obscene words,” Oleksandr said.

“No, we will not give up!” Yurii said. “The scale is immense, financially daunting. And a lot of equipment has been lost. Yes, it's frightening, but that's why we're here working to restore everything.”