Kiev residents are living outside the city as power outages bite and incomes fall

Kiev, Ukraine

Residents of Kiev are getting used to 12 hours a day without electricity, but the situation has worsened recently as Russia’s missile campaign puts more pressure on Ukraine’s grid, causing even more outages.

On Monday afternoon, almost everything was dark on the east bank of the Dnipro River, a normally busy neighborhood. A cafe was open thanks to a generator, but other shops, including a supermarket, and apartment buildings were without power.

Without power, everything takes a lot longer when the temperatures start to drop. There are ATM lines, which only work when the lights are on, and stores and welfare centers that provide basic food supplies to those most in need.

Power outages have led to the emergence of spontaneous street markets, even without licenses.

People in Kyiv are scrambling and adapting as they have for much of this year, but with no respite from missile attacks, many may decide to leave the city and huddle around a wood stove during the winter months.

On Sunday, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the city is preparing for worst-case scenarios in the event of further Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, which could potentially leave it without power or water. He said: “Our enemies are doing everything to keep the city without heat, electricity and water supply, and in general they want us all dead.”

CNN spoke to some of the city’s residents about the harsh realities they face, including 21-year-old cafe barista Anna Ermantraut.

When he arrived at work at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, there was no electricity. He said he finally started working two hours later, but at 12:00 the light went out again.

Ermantraut said the cafe’s profits were more than halved and she couldn’t sell many cakes because the refrigerators were frequently shut down.

Life isn’t much better at home, he told CNN. When the power goes out, the water supply is also lost.

Ermantraut said that he had begun to think about what to do if the power situation deteriorates further and Kiev is evacuated. He said he planned to go to a house in a nearby village, where there is a wood-burning stove and a well with water.

When CNN met 70-year-old pensioner Lubov Mironenko, he waited in line for five hours for food supplies at a welfare center. The persistent outage has made it difficult to survive, he said.

Marya Litvinchuk, a 29-year-old hairdresser, said the additional power cuts, in addition to the three scheduled daily ones, have made a difficult situation worse.

When the electricity was cut according to a schedule, “the plan was to work, but even so, the working hours were cut in half.” Of course, this meant that “profits were also cut in half.”

In an effort to keep it going, he ordered special battery-operated lights and bought a generator for $1,000, even though the average price of a haircut is just $6. There was more bad news then he got scammed and he found out the generator wasn’t working. He now has to take the electric clippers home to charge them overnight.

Hairdresser Marya Litvinchuk was awarded $1,000 for the faulty generator.

Like the exiles, he plans to move to the countryside to be with relatives if Kiev is evacuated.

Yuriy Pogulay, 39, is also suffering financially. Not long ago, the small cafe that Pogulay has together was open from 09:00 to 22:00; now they are struggling to stay open for more than three hours.

He told CNN that their income has dropped significantly and they can’t store food for long because they have tried to reduce the size of the refrigerator.

“I ordered a generator, but I don’t know when it will arrive,” he said.

Pogulay said the business was financially strapped. “My costs will increase with the generator, but I can’t raise the prices, because people’s economic situation has worsened.”

The World Bank predicts that Ukraine’s economy could shrink by 40% or more this year because of the conflict.

The musician Anton Kargatov has not gone anywhere else.

A man who has suffered less than most is Anton Kargatov, a 36-year-old musician.

“I play music outside, so I don’t need electricity,” said Kargatov, who told CNN he has a sleeping bag and a powerbank at home. “If they evacuate Kiev, I will not go anywhere. There is a well with water not far from my house. And I can cook food in the backyard over the fire. I have nowhere else to go.”

Victoria Storozh works in a pizzeria in the center of Kiev; the business suffers less power cuts than some, as it is located in an area close to government buildings. However, she said: “My husband and I are ready if we all have to evacuate, we have wood and water in the Kyiv region. We will have a hard time there.”

Serhey Kizilov, 23, is a rehabilitation trainer who works in a basement gym. Lighting is just one of the problems he faces, he told CNN.

“Our entire sanitation system depends on pumps that run on electricity. Even our ventilation system, “he said. “Even when there is no electricity to light up the rooms, we can’t do anything with sanitation and ventilation.

“My income also suffers because there are fewer people in the room, not everyone wants to practice in these conditions.”