Ukrainian officials described Russian strikes on the nation's energy infrastructure and detailed the resources they say are needed to recover, on the heels of billions in U.S. and other aid to the Eastern European country, during a Nov. 28 event hosted by an influential Washington-based think tank.
"He [Vladimir Putin] is sure that this winter is a focal point for him to show that he can make sure that Ukrainians will not survive," Oksana Nechyporenko, director of the Ukraine Crisis Coordination Center and former chief of staff to Ukraine Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, said during the Atlantic Council event.
Russian aerial assaults on the Ukrainian grid have seriously degraded the country's energy infrastructure, leading the government to impose emergency blackouts across the country.
Russia's recent missile and drone strikes on the grid have already led the United States to provide more financial support to Ukraine.
Ukraine needs new high-voltage equipment to replace infrastructure destroyed in Russian attacks, according to Lana Zerkal, former deputy minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine.
Speakers Describe Effects of Russian Strikes
"It's like the start of the war all over again," Nechyporenko said, noting that Ukrainian families must coordinate among themselves to acquire communal generators.
Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, CEO of Ukraine's national grid operator, Ukrenergo, said Russia's systematic attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure, beginning on Oct. 10, have resulted in the "massive, vicious destruction" of power plants and portions of the country's grid.
"We are unfortunately expecting another attack, and we understand that this attack will happen until they probably exhaust all their heavy missile fleet," he said.
Kudrytskyi told the panel that mobile generators from foreign countries could bridge the gap for people lacking water, electricity, and heating. Larger mobile power plants could also help address Ukraine's pressing energy demands, he said.
"Equipment, electricity from abroad, and mobile generators—this is my wish list," he said, in answer to a question from the audience.
Kudrytskyi estimated that it would take "several hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars" to replace damaged equipment at substations and power plants but declined to comment about what it might cost to acquire additional air defense systems to protect that infrastructure.
"If you compare this with the price for refugees in Europe, this is peanuts," Zerkal said.
Oleksandra Azarkhina, Ukraine's deputy minister of infrastructure, said Ukrainians need water filtration devices, particularly in the south and east of the country. She later recommended that audience members donate to UNITED24, a venue for aid created by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
UNITED24 is "directly connected to all state funds," Azarkhina said.
US–Ukraine Coordination on Energy Not New
Even before the current war began, the U.S. Department of Energy was coordinating with Ukraine to reduce the country's energy dependence on Russia.
One interagency group was dispatched to help the state secure gas supplies in place of Russia via reverse flows from Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary.