Ukraine races to fix its energy grid faster than next Russian missile strikes Ukraine's electrical grid has been under assault from Russian airstrikes for two months. Repair workers are racing to fix damaged power stations, even as the country braces for more attacks.

In an ongoing race, Ukraine tries to repair faster than Russia bombs

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We have the story of a new kind of front-line fighter in Ukraine. We know of Ukrainian soldiers who've defended the country and even retaken territory from Russian invaders. Much also depends on Ukrainian utility workers. Russia has launched wave after wave of attacks on the Ukrainian power grid. Strikes yesterday knocked out both electricity and water in some places. Civilian lives are at stake in restoring power when it is knocked out. NPR's Greg Myre followed repair workers who have tried to keep the lights on.


GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Surrounded by apartment buildings, a workman in a backhoe cuts a deep trench in the snowy ground. His colleagues prepare to lay a replacement power line that will serve several thousand residents. To be clear, this is not a place hit by a Russian missile. Ukraine says those sites are off-limits. But this repair work is part of the scramble to keep the lights on amid ongoing Russian airstrikes.

YURII HERASKO: (Through interpreter) Our guys always have a lot of work to do.

MYRE: Yurii Herasko is a manager with DTEK, the country's largest private energy company.

HERASKO: (Through interpreter) We're always working 24/7. We have to be prepared for the winter.

MYRE: Just across the street, Tetiana Tolstobrova has brought her grandchildren to a playground, where they're waging a spirited snowball fight. She says the electricity workers are critical for Ukraine.

TETIANA TOLSTOBROVA: (Through interpreter) They are heroes. They've done a great job, just like the soldiers.

MYRE: Still, daily power cuts are almost universal. Energy producers can no longer generate enough electricity to meet demand and therefore schedule the outages often in blocks of 4 hours at a time. The government has set up 4,000 centers at schools and government buildings to provide heat, food and water at times of extended blackouts. The government calls them points of invincibility. Tolstobrova says she and her friends have set up their own points of invincibility.

TOLSTOBROVA: (Through interpreter) When we have electricity, friends come to our house. When they have electricity, we go to their house.

MYRE: Since the Russians invaded in February, the Ukrainians keep figuring out new ways to adapt. When Russian troops were bombarding the Kyiv region at the beginning of the war, city residents camped out in subways for weeks at a time. Now they're factoring power outages into their daily routine. Taras Kobets is a bus driver who lives in a seventh-floor apartment.

TARAS KOBETS: (Through interpreter) I only use the stairs. I don't use elevators because you can get stuck in there. And if I get stuck, I'll be late for work.

MYRE: He adds with a smile...

KOBETS: (Through interpreter) This is my exercise. It's good for my health.

MYRE: In many apartment buildings, residents leave boxes of food and water in the elevator for those who do get trapped when the power goes out. This resilience is serving Ukrainians well. Yet Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has warned there could be blackouts lasting for days. He's urging city residents to move in with relatives in the countryside, where they can burn wood for heat. But so far, he says, they're staying put.


VITALI KLITSCHKO: I talk to our citizens. They're very angry and ready to stay and ready to fight.

MYRE: Russian troops have been losing ground on the battlefield, but Russia is betting it can break Ukrainian resolve by making life for civilians unbearable this winter. NATO countries have responded by stepping up assistance for Ukraine's power systems. Yurii Herasko, the official from the electricity company, says the need is urgent.

HERASKO: (Through interpreter) It is getting hard to find equipment, especially those that deal with high-voltage lines.

MYRE: Like most Ukrainians, his own home receives multiple power cuts that often add up to 12 hours a day. But he adds, "We will survive this winter, and we will win the war."

Greg Myre, NPR News, Kyiv.

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