Ukrainian companies are coping with daily power outages amid attacks on the Russian power grid

Kyiv-based CEO Vitaly Girin, 38, starts his workdays at 5:30 a.m. with a double cup of espresso and walking his dog. Then come group phone calls and text messages with his staff to guess how many power hours they might have that day — and which of their services might be down.

She runs Gyrin Adonis, a network of medical centers that employs 500 doctors and 1,200 other employees throughout Ukraine. These days, he said, “our clinics usually lack power for at least half of the working day.” “Power outages and missile strikes… are our biggest concerns. You can’t plan for more than two days.

One of the Adonis maternity wards was destroyed by Russian bombing in March. In other cases, power outages have interrupted dental work, X-rays, and even major surgeries.

The Russian invasion in February has turned life in Ukraine upside down for nine months now. But just over a month ago, Russia began targeting Ukraine’s power grid in an attempt to crush the country’s resolve by plunging it into cold and darkness. It has now destroyed 50% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

In recent weeks, blackouts have increasingly besieged Ukrainian cities as Russia steps up its attacks on the country’s power grid. As a result, Ukrainian people and businesses now suffer daily outages and go without light, heat and water for hours on end. On Friday, as Kyiv saw its first snowfall, Ukraine warned that the capital was facing a “total situation”. [power] close.”

Vitaly Girin, CEO of Adonis in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Courtesy of Vitaly Girin

But Ukrainian companies are not giving up.

“When the war started, we made up our minds to keep working no matter what,” Gerin said. Until Ukraine wins. We are determined to continue.”

humanitarian catastrophe

When Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, he expected a quick victory.

Instead, Russia faced one setback after another. In recent months, its military forces have lost large parts of important territory in eastern Ukraine; Hundreds of thousands of young Russians fled the country to avoid the fighting. The Internet is flooded with videos of frustrated Russian recruits complaining about the lack of food, training and proper equipment.

Analysts say Russian battlefield losses likely prompted the Kremlin in September to begin using Iranian-made Shahed cruise missiles and aircraft to target Ukrainian power plants and the smaller power plants that connect its grid. Since then, Russia has intensified its attacks.

Ukraine replied that it would not bow under such an attack. President Volodymyr Zelensky said in late October: “We are not afraid of the dark. We will not be broken by bombing.” The country’s air defense system has shot down at least hundreds of Russian missiles and drones.

However, Ukraine’s power grid has suffered severe damage from the increasing Russian attacks. About half of the country’s energy system has been crippled – up from 30% in mid-October. Last week, Volodymyr Kudritsky, CEO of the national network UkrEnergo, warned that “the situation is critical”. He said that almost all of Ukraine’s major power plants had been bombed, and that Russia was firing missiles faster than Ukraine could repair the grid.

Ukraine’s energy operators now have one priority: keep the lights and heat running, and the water running — especially as winter approaches. DTEK, the largest private investor in Ukraine’s energy sector, which provides 20% of the country’s energy, says its repair teams are working overtime to repair damage to cities’ energy infrastructure. It has sent five emergency teams of engineers to help restore power supplies to Kherson, which was liberated by Ukrainian forces last weekend; DTEK teams have already inspected 100 kilometers of the city’s grid since then.

DTEK engineers repair power lines in Kyiv in May 2022.

Courtesy of DTEK

But it desperately needs more equipment such as substations, transformers and circuit breakers to continue repairs, as “we have already exhausted our entire stock. We are asking for equipment to survive through the winter… and to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” said Antonina Antosha, a spokeswoman for DTEK. , luck.

Ukraine is trying to address power shortages by planning its own outages to help ration electricity and ensure a stable supply – but blackouts often happen suddenly.

However, many companies refuse to close down or move operations out of the country.

“We are determined to continue.”

Businesses across Ukraine are finding innovative ways to adapt and continue operating under their new normal.

In April, 38-year-old Nata Smyrna — founder and owner of clothing brand Hochusobitake — was forced to flee to Switzerland after Russia bombed her hometown of Kharkiv. I was paralyzed and didn’t know what to do. The future looked completely black. I stopped working after that.” luck.

But by June, Smirina started working again with its employees and manufacturers spread all over Ukraine.

“I wanted to support my crew and our military and keep my brand alive,” she said.

Electricity shortages caused operational difficulties. Nastya Glukchovska, sales manager at Hochusobitake in Kyiv, aims to respond to customer inquiries on Instagram — the platform where the brand sells the bulk of its products — within seven minutes, or else the sales leader “goes cold,” she says. But Russian attacks often left Kyiv without the internet for four to eight hours a day, on average, meaning its response times could be hours behind. The company’s tailors now cut fabrics at home by candlelight.

They rationalize the electricity to use in the sewing machine, and make sure to sew quickly.

Just yesterday, Glukchovska texted Smrina: “We’re sitting [here] Without water and electricity all weekend.”

Kyiv-based Creative Depo, which makes Ukraine-branded T-shirts, hoodies and smartphone cases (its shirts were worn by President Zelenskyy) in southeast Dnipro, has similarly adjusted its manufacturing schedules to get around government-planned outages. said the founders Yuri Chavoronok and Denis Levchenko luck. Power outages, which often occur at least two to three times a day, “seriously affected” the productivity of the team and its ability to quickly produce goods and send orders, and waiting times increased.

It is difficult to deal with the fact that its business operations may remain that way in the long term [emotionally]Zhaivoronok said. But throughout the war, they learned to be flexible and “adapt to the current situation in order to… solve problems quickly,” he said.

Eugene Kuzhuk, a 36-year-old entrepreneur based in Kyiv, runs two Ukraine-based tech companies recognized by the government as among the best startups in Ukraine. Agrotop operates remote farm management systems for agribusinesses, while FieldBI is a digital platform that helps businesses manage their farmland.

Eugene Kuzhuk, founder of the Ukrainian startup Agrotop and FieldBI, in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Courtesy of Eugene Kujok

He made sure that his staff was equipped with portable chargers, backup generators, light bulbs, candles, and an extra water supply. If employees experience major electrical and heat disturbances, “we have premises ready where internet and electricity are always available… [where] They and their families can work and live comfortably” for short and long stays, he said luck. He said the Kuguk teams have also come to rely on Starlink satellite systems — provided by Elon Musk’s SpaceX — for “continuous Internet access.”

rebuild

While trying to operate with limited capacity, Jiren struggles to purchase generators for his clinics. Gerin said the cost of a single 30-kilowatt generator has now doubled to $30,000 over pre-war times, while delivery times have jumped to two weeks from next-day delivery.

In mid-October, DTEK estimated that it needed $40 million to repair and replace damaged equipment, but that number “continues to grow.”

“We are still estimating the damage from the recent attacks, but it is already clear that it is in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Antosha said. Russia hit Ukraine with its biggest wave of missile attacks in a month on Tuesday, with power supplies and internet connectivity cut off in many Ukrainian regions. Zelensky said the northern and central parts of Ukraine were the hardest hit.

Western countries provided nearly $96.3 billion in loans, military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine in the February-October period, German research group Kiel Institute for the World Economy estimates. But Ukraine will need hundreds of billions for post-war reconstruction, part of which will be used to create a truly independent clean energy grid from Russia.

For now, business owners like Smirina say it’s more important than ever that their companies keep running: “It’s devastating if you think about [the war] “All the time,” she said. Keeping people employed, she said, is “to kindle a fire of hope in them … to support themselves and be useful to our country.”

Hochusobitake donates 10% of its proceeds to the Ukrainian military; Creative Depo gives half of its profits and buys bulletproof vests for Ukrainian soldiers. But more importantly than their donations, companies registered in Ukraine also pay taxes, which helps the Ukrainian government fund its military.

Yurii Zhaivoronok and Denys Levchenko, founders of Creative Depo, in Borodyanka, Ukraine.

Courtesy of Creative Depo

“This is our economic front,” Kujuk said. He stressed that continuing to work and pay taxes is “the most important thing a businessman can do right now”.

Half of Girin’s pre-war agents have now left Ukraine. Now, he performs surgeries and provides rehabilitation services to Ukrainian soldiers and refugees.

“We have a lot of patients who trust us [and] Many of the employees we work with. Jiren said.

.