Ukrainians could ‘freeze to death’ this winter – Kiev mayor
Many Ukrainians could “freeze to death” in the coming months unless the West helps them to cope with the looming crisis due to Russian airstrikes on the nation’s energy infrastructure, Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko told UK media on Friday.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Klitschko, a former heavyweight boxing champion, acknowledged that Ukraine will face huge challenges. “We are doing everything we can do to save the lives of our people and to protect them,” the mayor told the outlet.
The official said his team has managed to procure a number of power generators while preparing 1,000 mobile heating points in Kiev in anticipation for what he called the “worst-case scenario.”
Klitschko signaled that Ukraine urgently needs not only Western weapons and air defense systems, but also blankets, winter clothes and generators.
“It’s a critical time for this kind of support,” he stressed.
Citing “the risk of a humanitarian issue,” he also urged Ukrainians who have fled the country to stay away this winter if they can. “But our main goal is to bring our people back, the biggest value of Ukraine is our citizens and our people,” he added.
The mayor’s comments echo earlier remarks made by Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk. This week, she called on Ukrainians who left after the start of Russia’s military offensive not to return home before spring, due to Moscow’s strikes on energy infrastructure.
Meanwhile Yuri Vitrenko, the head of the state-owned energy giant Naftogaz, has warned fellow citizens that Ukraine is facing its harshest ever winter, while claiming that Russian airstrikes have destroyed “about 40% of the power generation plants”.
Ukraine has been experiencing regular blackouts since Moscow launched massive strikes against its energy facilities, including power stations on October 10, after it accused Kiev of terrorist attacks on Russian infrastructure, including the strategic Crimean Bridge.
In an attempt to avert a humanitarian disaster, the EU last week announced a new emergency shelter and winterized facilities program for Ukraine, vowing to provide additional €175 million ($174 million) in humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable parts of the population in Ukraine and neighboring Moldova.
Earlier this month the US, Ukraine’s largest international backer, pledged to support Kiev with emergency assistance to the tune of $55 million. The package includes investment in heating infrastructure, procurement of generators and other means of keeping Ukrainians warm.