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Energy giant DTEK calls for more air defense systems as winter looms

by Asami Terajima November 17, 2023 6:02 PM 2 min read
People walk along a street near Soborna Square, lit by headlights during a power outage in Odesa, Ukraine on Dec. 10, 2022. After night strikes by Russian kamikaze drones, power supply was cut off in the city with the exception of critical infrastructure facilities. (Viacheslav Onyshchenko /Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)
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Ukraine needs more powerful air defense systems, such as Patriot and IRIS-T air defense systems, to better protect its critical infrastructure from Russian attacks, Maksym Timchenko, CEO of Ukraine's largest private energy company DTEK, said on Nov. 17.

In an interview with Reuters in Warsaw, Timchenko said his country needs more of these Western-made systems for the safer operation of power plants as Russia continues to target energy sites in Ukraine.

Timchenko said that DTEK is ready for what is expected to be yet another brutal winter of Russian attacks on critical infrastructure, but "we cannot protect ourselves against ballistic missiles if we don't have air defense systems."

All 13 of DTEK's power stations, which supply power to more than seven million Ukrainian families, have been hit by Russian attacks, Reuters reported. Since April, eight of the 13 have been repaired and are operational, which another two are still being repaired.

Citing Timchenko, Reuters said that roughly half of DTEK's 2.4-gigawatt capacity has been destroyed, suffered damage, or is under Russian occupation.

DTEK's urgent call for more Western air defense systems comes as Kyiv braces itself for winter of power cuts and lack of other essential utilities such as heating.

From fall 2022 to Winter 2023, Russia launched a series of mass strikes across the country, targeting critical infrastructure sites and causing widespread power outages. Local authorities were forced to install power cut schedules to preserve electricity.

Top Kyiv officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have urged Western allies to provide more air defense systems as winter approaches.

Speaking with journalists on Nov. 16, Zelensky said that he "does not believe that Russia will use fewer weapons" this winter, but that Ukraine is better prepared now than last year.

So far, the power situation across the country has been rather stable, even as Russia continues to target critical infrastructure. In places like Kherson, a city in the south that is regularly shelled, electricians work swiftly to restore electricity to civilians as fast as possible, despite the danger.  

Russia appears intent on raging on its energy campaign, however. On Nov. 16, DTEK reported that Russian shelling severely damaged one of its power plants in a front-line region for the fourth time.  

DTEK did not disclose the location of the power plant.

With winter approaching, is Ukraine’s energy system ready for renewed Russian attacks?
The specter of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy system looms once again as winter rapidly approaches. Last year in early October, just as Ukraine’s heating season began, Russia launched a month-long series of missile and drone attacks against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, leading to blackouts…
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