Severe Winter Storm Causes Widespread Power Outages and Infrastructure Damage in Ukraine

A severe snowstorm accompanied by strong winds has resulted in extensive power cuts and infrastructure damage in Ukraine, affecting more than 2,000 towns and villages across multiple regions. The worst-affected area is the Odesa region in the southwest, where 48 people, including children, had to be evacuated from trapped vehicles. Additionally, six individuals have suffered from hypothermia. The storm has also affected Moldova, Russia, Georgia, and Bulgaria.

As of Monday morning, Ukraine’s emergencies service has reported that 2,019 settlements in 16 regions of the country are without power due to the severe weather conditions. Snow drifts reaching over two meters have led to the towing of 840 vehicles, and more than 1,370 cargo lorries are currently stuck. The southern Mykolaiv region is also heavily impacted.

To address the aftermath of the storm, over 1,500 rescuers, along with police, border guards, and National Guard members, are engaged in a large-scale cleanup operation across the country. In Kyiv, the national capital, fierce winds damaged a 16×24-meter flag, which was subsequently taken down from a 90-meter pole. Nevertheless, city officials have assured that the flag will be replaced and raised again.

In Crimea, the southern peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, Moscow-installed officials have reported coastal flooding, fallen trees, and debris on the streets of several towns. The situation has led to the declaration of a state of emergency in multiple municipalities. Furthermore, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry has claimed that the storm has “washed away trenches in occupied Crimea that the Russian army dug out on the beaches.” However, Russia’s military has not provided any comment on this assertion.

Beyond Crimea, Russia’s Black Sea city of Sochi witnessed the collapse of a three-story building, although no injuries were reported. Near the town of Anapa, a cargo vessel carrying 21 crew members ran aground. Moscow, the capital of Russia, experienced heavy snowfall, prompting the deployment of specialized machinery to clear the streets.

Amidst this extreme weather event, there are concerns of Russia’s alleged preparation for extensive rocket and drone strikes on Ukraine’s power grid and critical infrastructure. Similar attacks by Russia occurred last autumn and winter, causing widespread power and heating disruptions for millions of people in Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have recently claimed that Russia launched its largest drone strike on Kyiv since the full-scale invasion in February 2022, with 74 out of 75 Shahed kamikaze drones being shot down near the capital.

This snowstorm and its aftermath pose significant challenges for Ukraine, as it struggles to restore power, clear roads, and repair damaged infrastructure. It highlights the vulnerability of the country’s power grid and critical systems in the face of extreme weather events and potential attacks from Russia. The Ukrainian government, along with international partners, must urgently address these issues to ensure the well-being and safety of its citizens and prevent further disruptions to essential services.