Missiles against light

The waiters take care of quickly organizing a last table for 15 people. They move chairs, spread white tablecloths, put flower arrangements and a few candles. The rest of the tables are already occupied by their diners, even if it is only seven in the evening. They have to run because by law they must close before ten. So, without losing concentration, they emerge from the kitchen with baskets of bread, appetizers, casseroles with borscht, the house specialty. At times Eugene Klopotenko appears with his map of Ukraine woven into the left side of his apron; he reviews every detail. Tonight, his restaurant is full again despite the power cuts, which in some parts of Kyiv exceed 15 hours a day.

“We have many candles ready in case the power goes out,” says the chef, who, like many in Kyiv, is not willing to be intimidated by the new circumstances to which the city has been subjected since the Russian government began its attacks against the network. energy in the country in October. The streets are full as soon as it gets dark – after four in the afternoon – and even when public light is extremely dim. And that when there is.

“We have adapted wood ovens where we can prepare at least half of the dishes on the menu,” explains Eugene, who, like many in Kyiv, seems to have an alternative so as not to lose the momentum they have regained in recent months, when two thirds of the population returned and the city regained its life. Another of the famous pubs in the center has a grill set up outside the premises to prepare some meat. In one of the markets in the west of the capital, they take out the tables to the street when it is dark inside, regardless of the temperature, which is already below freezing, and that the snowfall has already begun. The garlands of the Christmas tree, which after much discussion will be erected in Hagia Sophia square, will be connected to one of many electricity generators, which are not only in short supply, but are also priced at gold.

Kyiv residents sheltered in the subway yesterday morning during a Russian bombardment

Kyiv residents sheltered in the subway yesterday morning during a Russian bombardment

The same alternative is used by the famous CUM department store, which already has Christmas installed inside; the most important brands in the world exhibit their latest collections waiting for the season to boost sales. The only thing that indicates that this is a country at war is the announcement that the store will close in case the alarms go off – “We invite you to go to the nearest shelter”, read the signs. And also the lack of buyers, at least on the day we visited.

Russia launched some 70 missiles on Ukraine yesterday, of which the defense said it had shot down more than 60

“If the situation gets very serious, I’ll buy one, but you have to wait a few weeks because the waiting list is long,” says Eugene, who for the moment is reluctant to invest two thousand euros in a generator. Although in the end he confesses that he may have to do it. The general belief in Kyiv is that the blackouts will be greater as Russia continues its attacks, as happened again yesterday when some 70 missiles were launched all over Ukraine. The air defense said they had shot down more than 60 of them, but the rest, as is already a constant, returned to attack the energy network, leaving millions of people in darkness.

Before this latest attack, around 40% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure had been damaged or destroyed. “This has never been seen. Putin could not conquer Kyiv or Ukraine and now he wants to freeze us, ”says Valentina, who sells fruit in a street market in the west of the city. “I don’t open the coldest days, but there are people who only have electric heating in their house. Awful!” she says.

The dimension of this destruction is perfectly understood by engineer Andrei Medina, director of repairs for the private electric company DTEK, the largest in the country. “Every time one of these attacks happens, communications are cut off, there is no signal on mobile phones, so it is very difficult to know where the damage has occurred because we cannot talk to each other,” explains the engineer while repairing with his equipment the generator that powers a large residential complex in Kyiv. This includes a dozen apartment towers with more than 20 floors, a nursery, a hospital and a commercial sector.