The Kremlin is waging an energy war, and Ukraine is plunged into darkness. Nine months after the start of the war, as the thermometer nears 0°C, the country is short of electricity. Ukrainian nights, photographed from space, are getting darker and darker.
This is what images from the American Suomi NPP satellite, operated by NASA, show. Day by day, if the Ukrainian sky is clear, it is possible to follow the evolution of the illumination of cities at night. The result is surprising: comparing the latest photos to September 2021, the map reveals a darker country overall, especially in the eastern part of the country.
On November 25, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky counted 6 million homes without electricity. It was less than half that of Wednesday, three days earlier during the massive blasts. From Kiev to Kharkiv, via Kherson and Zaporizhzhya, the reasons for these cuts are varied: power plants affected by Russian bombings or power plants disconnected from the network as a safety measure, blackouts organized to save energy, automatic dimming of light… Material becomes more strategic when winter begins.
>> Read more: The war in Ukraine: The strategy of “electric chaos”, or when the Kremlin wants to traverse an entire country
Light was reduced to Kiev and its suburbs
On November 25, Kyiv region was one of the areas hardest hit by the cuts, with 600,000 homes without power. From space, satellite images from the beginning of the month already showed a decrease in brightness in the capital and its suburbs.
The cuts are a result of the Russian military’s routine bombing of electricity infrastructure in the area. The headquarters of Ukrenergo, the national electricity network manager, was also attacked in Kyiv. But the decline in nighttime lighting is a result of nationwide power cuts, and energy temperance raised as a patriotic virtue. A short distance to the west, Cytomir was plunged into darkness.
Gerson plunged into darkness
According to pictures taken on November 23, Kherson and its surroundings were plunged into complete darkness. The region was recaptured by the Ukrainians on November 11 after eight months of Russian occupation. According to Ukrainian military officials, dozens of technicians were busy restoring electricity distribution networks, especially between Kherson and Mykolaiv. The Trifonivska solar power plant is set to be restarted, said private power producer Titek.
As these pictures show, in Odessa, the brightness is reduced, but still present. According to DiXi Group, a Kyiv-based think tank specializing in wartime energy monitoring, the city has been hit by missile attacks in recent weeks. Electricity and heat supply are frequently interrupted.
Kharkiv was destroyed, Belgorod was enlightened
In the north-east of the country, the situation in the Kharkiv region is striking. Ukraine’s former capital was attacked by the Russian army since the start of the war in February, before Ukrainians regained the ground in several months. But even after this setback, the Russians continued to bomb infrastructure in the region.
In November, the area around Kharkiv was subject to several disturbances. According to the DiXi team, the power lines were damaged, as were the power stations. Power cuts are also arranged to balance the network. On November 23, electricity was cut off in several districts of Kharkiv region. 60 kilometers away, on the other side of the border, the Russian city of Belgorod is burning to the ground.
Zaporizhia and Dnipro were cut off
Across the Dnieper River, which crosses the country from north to south, the cities of Zaporijjia and Dnipro, which had 750,000 and 966,000 inhabitants respectively before the start of the war, are also plunged into darkness. On November 23, after the Russian attacks, local operator Zaporizhia announced a blackout for all residents of the region.
The nuclear power plant called “Zaporijjia” near the city of Energodar, the largest in Europe, is regularly cut off from the power grid either due to explosions or as a safety measure. As it typically provides about a quarter of the national electricity generation, its operation is highly strategic. Further southeast, the city of Melitopol, controlled by the Russians since the spring, was enlightened.
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