Ukraine: Putin’s plans for winter discussed by analyst

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Ukraine’s capital Kyiv has an emergency evacuation plan amid fears that Russian missile strikes could completely disconnect the city from the energy grid and spark a total blackout, but a Ukrainian expert has told Express.co.uk that this backup plan is an unlikely scenario that it can defend against. Kyiv’s mayor Vitaliy Klitschko, also a former boxer, has warned the city’s three million residents that they should be ready to pack up and leave in the event that fresh Russian strikes leave the city in a total blackout.

It comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal barrage of strikes in recent weeks hit 40 percent of the country’s critical energy infrastructure, forcing multiple regions, including Kyiv, to conduct rolling blackouts to balance the grid which operators make repairs.

Mr Klitschko has called Russia’s deliberate attacks on energy infrastructure “terrorism” and “genocide”. He said Putin “doesn’t need us Ukrainians. He needs territory, he needs Ukraine without us”, adding that this is “why everything that is happening now [strikes on infrastructure] is genocide. His task is for us to die, to freeze, or to make us flee our land so that he can have it”.

Now, the capital’s mayor has urged citizens to prepare for different scenarios but has ensured that he is doing “everything” to keep the power running. However, under the “worst-case scenario”, Mr Klitchko advises that residents arrange to stay with friends or relatives who live in the suburbs and still have water and power if the energy supply to Kyiv is lost. 

But according to Pavlo Kukhta, an energy expert and former advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Putin will need to up the ante if he is to cause enough damage to warrant this response. 

 

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Mr Kukhta said: “I don’t expect it to become that bad. The Russians may be attacking the energy system of Ukraine, but the energy system in Ukraine is rather resilient as it was designed that way. 

“These missiles (which Russia is using) are destructive but they are not the heaviest bombs, as long as they keep on using conventional missiles and drones, Russia’s means of damaging energy systems are limited.”

“The gas network is pretty safe, in my opinion, as long as these are the kinds of weapons that are used. As far as water supplies in the city go, the critical infrastructure consists of pretty robust facilities too. War is unpredictable but is hard to destroy such facilities with the kinds of weapons the Russians are using.”

However, while he thought it an unlikely scenario, Mr Kukhta did say that the emergency evacuation is completely out of the question. 

He said: “A lot of this depends on luck. For instance, I know cases where the Russians hit distribution stations but have not damaged any critical devices, meaning the station can get back up and running again within several hours. But there are also cases where the Russians do damage critical devices and it does take a long time to replace these – so there is also an element of luck with this. 

And the Kyiv resident that locals are still going about their business as usual, despite the scheduled blackouts which can last for hours at a time. 

Mr Kukhta told Express.co.uk: “People are ok, they will continue living their lives as there is not much they can do. Today was relatively ok. There were several hours without electricity, then it came back up. It will go down again at least in my part of town. 

“It is unpleasant, but I wouldn’t want people to get used to this because it just puts them in survival mode and psychologically this is not good. There is nothing good about this but it will not be the death of the city.”

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He also said the Ukrainian army needs to stay vigilant and needs the required weapons to counter Russian threats – namely air defence systems. The West lept to Ukraine’s assistance and sent over air defence systems soon after the initial barrage of Russian missile and drone strikes rained down on at least 10 regions last month. 

On Monday, for instance, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Rezniko announced that the US’ NASAMS arrived in the country, which he said would “significantly strengthen” its armed forces. 

Mr Kukhta said it is weapons like these that should help to stave off an evacuation if all goes to plan. He said: “The most effective thing to counter this is air defence. If Ukrainian air defences have enough assets to counter Russian missile strikes, that is the most efficient way of dealing with it.

“The second most important thing is doing repairs quickly. But it is easier to avoid the damage than repair it because these are complex devices, they need to be replaced and there are all sorts of problems.”

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