Ukraine: Russia planning 'particularly cruel' action says Zelensky

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A Ukrainian energy expert told Express.co.uk in an exclusive interview that Kyiv is thrilled by Australian mining billionaire Andrew Forrest’s commitment to raising $25billion (£21billion) in a bid to help the invaded nation make vital repairs as the brutal Russian onslaught has left much of the country’s critical energy infrastructure in tatters. Mr Forrest launched the Ukraine Green Growth Initiative investment fund this week, which organisers say could even reach $100billion (£847million). It will first go towards repairs to primary infrastructure like energy and telecoms networks, according to a report by the BBC.

 It comes after Russian missiles raining down on multiple regions of Ukraine targeted at least 40 percent of critical energy infrastructure, which left millions without power for hours as maintenance workers scramble to make repairs. In some areas, citizens have been subjected to rolling blackouts while repairs are underway so that operators could balance the grid and avoid complete shutdowns. 

While this has become a common occurrence in recent weeks, Mark Savchuka Kyiv local and an expert in the energy sector with a postgraduate degree from the London School of Business and Finance, told Express.co.uk that the situation in the Ukrainian capital is getting even worse. It comes after Russia launched one of its most brutal strike attacks this week by firing more than 100 missiles at critical infrastructure. 

But while the situation is worsening, he said Mr Forrests’ investment fund could soften the blow as Kyiv pleads for more materials and assistance to make vital repairs to the energy grid. 

Mr said: “Things in Kyiv are getting difficult, Russia is slowly ruining our infrastructure and we do not know what deliveries we will get from Europe yet in terms of energy infrastructure. The situation is getting worse and the amount of time in the day in which we don’t have electricity is expanding. 

“Some sites get lighter damage, taking only a couple of days to a week to repair. But for sites with severe damage, when a rocket precisely strikes transformer stations for example, you need to build one from the ground up, that can take a month of work at least and it is incredibly difficult.

“The problem is that Russia keeps on repeating the strikes, therefore we have kind of run out of things to make repairs to the grid with. That is exactly why we have asked Europeans to help us, and to provide this equipment so that we have spare parts to repair the grid when they strike strategic sites.” 

Speaking on Mr Forrest’s fund, Mr Savchuk said: “It’s awesome, but at this point we are not sure exactly what will happen. If he decides to rebuild hospitals for example, that would be a really noble cause and it is going to help a lot, but I do not know exactly what he is going to do. 

“But obviously, we welcome this kind of thought that people all over the world should help Ukraine rebuild. It was not our fault that the war started and we position this as a fight of the civil developed world against the barbaric Russians. Actions like this reinforce that statement, which of course we welcome.” 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has indicated that the fund may go towards building “modern green and digital infrastructure” to replace what has been damaged by Russian missiles. 

According to Mr Forrest, Mr Zelensky sees this as “an opportunity to completely replace old coal-fired [and] nuclear power stations with brand new green energy”, he told the BBC. He added: “That capital would be available the instant that the Russian forces have been removed from the homelands of Ukraine.”

But Mr Savchuk explained that it will be a long while before replacements like these are made. He said: “You can increase green production etc, but this will only be possible once the war is over. Building wind generation when there are rockets flying around is definitely not what you want. Nuclear and coal is at the moment unfortunately the most efficient and cheapest way to produce power in Ukraine. 

“Replacing that is impossible right now. It is definitely not what we should dedicate our resources to, although we can do this later. Right now, everything should go into repairing existing infrastructure for the simple reason that it is the cheapest and easiest way to bring the situation back under control.” 

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But extra materials for repairs are not the only thing Ukraine says it needs right now. Given the shocking volume of missiles getting pelted at critical infrastructure, Kyiv has also urged the West to send it even more air defence weapons to fend off Russia’s attacks. 

Pavlo Kukhta, a Kyiv-based energy expert and former advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told Express.co.uk: “[The] Number one [most important line of defence] is anti-air defences and anything that bolsters this as it keeps missiles out of the sky and prevents damage, meaning it is better for everyone.

“But our second best option, which is unfortunately necessary as some missiles still get through…is assistance with repairs, which is very valuable. It is constant, it takes time, it takes a lot of effort and from the maintenance team and requires a lot of materials. Whatever the UK provides, it keeps Ukraine stable, keeps the situation stable and stops it from collapsing.”
And Mr Savchuk agreed. He said: “If you can intercept every single rocket, then you don’t need to repair anything.

“The more rockets we intercept, the less damage there will be, there will be fewer things to repair and we can get things back online quicker. I think this is something that is easier to provide Ukraine with, air defences are not offensive weapons so Putin can’t say that the West is fueling Ukraine with ATACAMS [a type of surface-to-air-missiles] and try and declare war on everyone. “

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