The mayor of Kyiv warns of a winter ‘apocalypse’ caused by Russian attacks on the city’s infrastructure

December 8, 2022, 6:47 PM UTC
Photo of Vitali Klitschko
Kyiv's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, during a city council session on Nov. 24, 2022.
Oleksii Samsonov—Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

It’s been nearly 10 months since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the war that Putin reportedly thought would be over quickly has turned into a drawn-out conflict. 

Now, the mayor of Ukraine’s capital city says a combination of a harsh winter and an ongoing Russian onslaught of the country’s infrastructure could create an end-of-the-world scenario for residents who have already endured so much. 

“Kyiv might lose power, water, and heat supply,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko told Reuters Wednesday. “The apocalypse might happen, like in Hollywood films, when it’s not possible to live in homes considering the low temperature.” 

In a separate interview with the Guardian published on the same day, Klitschko called Russia’s attacks on the city’s infrastructure “genocidal.”

“We never expected that they would try to destroy the civilian infrastructure of our cities. It is genocidal. It’s terrorism,” he told the outlet. “They want to freeze the civilian population. They want to kill us, want to have a Ukraine without Ukrainians.”

Over the past several weeks, Russia has begun to target Ukraine’s electricity grid, and has since taken down roughly half of Ukraine’s energy system. That has left Ukrainians lacking access to water, heat, and health services, according to a report released this week from Human Rights Watch, in a move that the organization said was “designed to instill terror among the population in violation of the laws of war.”  

Klitschko, a boxer turned politician, said 152 civilian residents of Kyiv have been killed and 678 buildings destroyed since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 of this year. He outlined what exactly the city would be forced to do if Russian attacks continue. 

“If electricity supply continues to be absent while outside temperatures remain low, we will unfortunately be forced to drain water from buildings,” he said, adding: “Otherwise the water can freeze and break the entire water supply network, and buildings will then be totally unfit for further use.”

Kyiv is the most populous city in Ukraine, with around three million residents. Klitschko said there are not enough heated shelters in the city to house the entire population in the event of a complete power outage, which happened once for about 12 hours previously.   

The mayor also said the economic toll of the war has hampered the city’s ability to effectively repair the damage that Russia has done to its infrastructure.  

“As of today, there is no budget for development, we are not fixing the roads, we are not investing in the development of our city…all the money goes on the protection,” he said. 

He added that Kyiv is in desperate need of a “new air defense system,” and more generators and industrial fan heaters. 

But Klitschko told residents to prepare for the worst. That means putting together an emergency supply of food, water, clothes—and having important documents readily available in case they need to pick up and leave in a hurry. He stressed, though, that there’s no need to evacuate at this point and the city currently only has a 20% power deficit. 

“Right now there is heating in Kyiv, there is electricity…everything works,” Klitschko said. 

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