Ukraine’s battered energy plants ‘need’ air defenses

BATTERED PLANT. Workers stand among debris in a damaged DTEK thermal power plant after a Russian attack in Ukraine on Thursday, May 2, 2024. / AP
BATTERED PLANT. Workers stand among debris in a damaged DTEK thermal power plant after a Russian attack in Ukraine on Thursday, May 2, 2024. / APFrancisco Seco

KYIV, Ukraine — At a Ukrainian power plant repeatedly hit by Russian aerial attacks, equipment department chief Oleh has a one-word answer when asked what Ukraine’s battered energy industry needs most: “Patriot.”

Ukrainian energy workers are struggling to repair the damage from intensifying airstrikes aimed at pulverizing Ukraine’s energy grid, hobbling the economy and sapping the public’s morale. Staff worry they will lose the race to prepare for winter unless allies come up with air-defense systems like the U.S.-made Patriots to stop Russian attacks inflicting more destruction on already damaged plants.

“Rockets hit fast. Fixing takes long,” Oleh said in limited but forceful English.

The U.S. has sent Ukraine some Patriot missile systems, and said last week it would give more after entreaties from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The Associated Press on Thursday visited a plant owned by DTEK, the country’s biggest private energy supplier, days after a cruise-missile attack left parts of it a mess of smashed glass, shattered bricks and twisted metal. The coal-fired plant is one of four DTEK power stations struck on the same day last week.

The AP was given access on the condition that the location of the facility, technical details of the damage and workers’ full names are not published due to security concerns.

During the visit, State Emergency Service workers in hard hats and harnesses clambered atop the twisted roof of a vast building, assessing the damage and occasionally dislodging chunks of debris with a thunderous clang.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Foreign Policy magazine that half of the country’s energy system has been damaged by Russian attacks.

DTEK says it has lost 80 percent of its electricity-generating capacity in almost 180 aerial attacks since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022. It estimates that repairing all the damaged plants would take between six months and two years — even if there are no more strikes. / AP

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