The attack carried out with Iranian drones on the province of Odessa in the early hours of Saturday has been lethal. The authorities thought that it was another massive bombardment like the ones that Russia has been repeating for two months. But not. Up to a million and a half people have been left without electricity and, what is worse, the authorities acknowledge that they will not be able to repair the damage in the short term. They speak not of days or weeks, as on previous occasions, but of up to two or three months until the service is restored with guarantees. The Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelensky, does not hide the seriousness of the attack. “The situation in Odessa is very difficult,” he said. Despite everything, the provincial governor, Maxim Marchenko, has insisted that there are no planned plans to evacuate the population.
The state company Ukrenergo will soon have more than 400 million additional euros to deal with the energy crisis generated by these Russian attacks, the company announced on its social networks. On the one hand, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has opened the door to a loan of 300 million. To this is added a grant of 72 million from the Netherlands and 32.5 million from a loan from the German state bank KfW. In parallel, the Council of Ministers approved this week that part of the loan of 37.55 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB) may be used to rebuild one of the substations destroyed in the province of Kiev.
Beyond these funds to deal with the damage to approximately 50% of the energy system, the country also has its sights set on the arrival from abroad of generators with which to make up for the lack of capacity to produce electricity in a few months in which consumption shoots up due to low temperatures. Belgium, France, Slovakia, Norway or Japan are some of the countries that have sent or are going to send these engines, whose noise is already part of the soundtrack of almost the entire country. Meanwhile, a dozen provinces suffer cuts on a daily basis due to the impossibility of the damaged system to meet the demand of the population.
The city of Odessa, the great city on the shores of the Black Sea that had a population of one million inhabitants before the Russian invasion, remains, like the province of the same name, since Saturday almost entirely without electricity. At the moment, the supply only reaches what are considered critical infrastructures, that is, facilities such as health centers or water pumping stations and those that provide heating.
“The situation in the Odessa region is very difficult. After the night attack by Iranian drones, Odessa and other cities and towns in the region are in the dark, ”Zelensky acknowledged on Saturday night in his daily address. The president assured that of the 15 Shahed model drones provided by Iran which used the Russian military, Ukraine’s air defenses managed to shoot down 10. Even so, the damage was considerable. “More than one and a half million people in Odessa are without electricity. Only critical infrastructure is connected,” he added.
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“Unfortunately, the attacks were severe, so it will take longer than usual to restore power. It won’t take hours, but a few days, unfortunately. We will do everything possible to speed up the recovery” of the supply, Zelenski commented, while asking for citizen collaboration. He also recalled the existence of a network of winter shelters for the population where they can find heating, recharge their devices or connect to the internet during blackouts.
In the midst of this uncertainty generated by the weeks in which, according to the authorities, it will take time for the service to be fully restored, the governor of the province, Maxim Marchenko, has reported that they do not currently foresee the evacuation of the inhabitants . He has made the clarification after an appeal from the local authorities came to light this Sunday so that everyone who can look for a location with a better supply, as reported by the newspaper Ukrainian Pravda.
Ukraine had already acknowledged throughout the week that it does not currently have the capacity to restore its energy infrastructure. The network cannot now reach the levels prior to the Russian invasion, Zelensky acknowledged on Wednesday. “Now it is impossible to restore 100% of the energy system,” warned the president.
Putin and Erdogan, on the Ukrainian grain
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, underlined this Sunday in a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, the importance of the grain corridor to bring food “to those in need.” The Turkish president proposed that work begin on the “gradual” inclusion of other foods and products in this export mechanism. According to data from the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, from where the corridor is monitored, more than 13.5 million tons of grain have left Ukraine for international markets since it began operating in August, a report from Istanbul Andres Mourenza.
Russia has raised criticisms of the corridor’s operation. At the end of October, it announced its withdrawal from the agreement, although it returned to it after a few days of Turkish mediation. His main objection is related to the fact that the agreement signed in summer with the UN and Turkey also included provisions on the resumption of exports of Russian grain and, above all, fertilizers through the corridor.
Moscow plans to transport its ammonia — a precursor to many agricultural fertilizers — through a pipeline connecting to the Ukrainian port of Odessa for loading onto ships bound for international markets. This was, in fact, one of the main Russian demands during the negotiation of the renewal of the agreement that governs the corridor in mid-November. However, no agreement has yet been reached on this point, so Moscow only gave its go-ahead to the extension of the corridor for 120 days and not for a full year, as requested by the other parties.
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