The Ukrainian government is telling its citizens who have fled to country in the wake of Russia's invasion that it would be best to wait out the winter from outside the country before returning home, after authorities said that at least one-third of all power stations in the country have been damaged or destroyed by Russian strikes, and amid rolling blackouts.
On Tuesday Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk addressed her fellow Ukrainians in a national TV broadcast saying that those already in a safe place abroad should wait until Spring to return home. "I wanted to ask them not to return. We need to survive the winter," she said.
Vereshchuk explained that the national energy grid "won't survive" the return of refugees from abroad, but instead the crisis would "only get worse".
"To return now is to risk yourself and your children, your vulnerable relatives," she emphasized in the surprisingly blunt remarks. She said this is because Russia continues "terrorizing the civilian population" - especially in targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure.
"I will ask you not to return, we need to survive the winter. Unfortunately, the power grids will not survive, you see what Russia is doing. You don’t need to do this. If you have the opportunity to stay, it’s better to spend the winter abroad," Vereshchuk said, according to another translation.
According to United Nations numbers published in July, it's believed that more than 12 million people have fled their homes since the February invasion. While many are internally displaced, UN data indicates over 7.7 million Ukrainian refugees have been registered across Europe.
Meanwhile The Economist reports that Russia's stated operation and goal to degrade Ukraine's power infrastructure has been successful. "Russia's losses on the battlefield have prompted it to attack Ukraine’s people. Since October 10th it has directed more than 200 cruise missiles and kamikaze drones at a crucial element of Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure: the electrical-power grid," the report says.
ℹ️ Confirmed: Khmelnytskyi Oblast in west #Ukraine is experiencing an unscheduled power outage, with network data showing regional connectivity at 36% of ordinary levels amid efforts to recover from Russian missile strikes on infrastructure— NetBlocks (@netblocks) October 25, 2022
📰 Background: https://t.co/S0qJQ7CbNv pic.twitter.com/2W5jwpa2W7
The Economist concludes, "And whereas Russia’s invasion has been badly planned, poorly executed and bereft of clear goals, its effort to turn off Ukraine’s lights appears competent and effective."