Much of Odesa in the dark as Russian attacks batter Ukraine's power grid

Canada's ambassador to Ukraine says the country is facing a desperate fight to keep its power grid intact in the face of Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure.

Full repair of the network could take several months, Ukrainian official says

Local residents look at their burning apartment after Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Wednesday. (LIBKOS/The Associated Press)

Canada's ambassador to Ukraine says that country needs help repairing its energy infrastructure after an intense campaign of air attacks from Russia that has left much of the major city of Odesa in the dark.

Russian drone attacks cut power to all non-critical infrastructure in the city of 1.5 million people on the Black Sea on Saturday. Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesperson for Odesa's regional administration, said residents would start to get power back within a few days, but it would take several months to completely repair the grid.

It's the latest in a series of major attacks that have battered the electrical grid as winter sets in.

"People are colder, people are darker and people can't live a normal life," Larisa Galadza said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live airing Sunday.

"That being said, they are as determined as ever," Canada's envoy to Ukraine told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton. "They know that part of this is a head game, a mind game, and mental resilience needs to be there."

WATCH | Ukraine prepares for cold, dark winter: 

Russian drone attack leaves 1.5 million in Odesa, Ukraine without power

6 months ago
Duration 1:55
All non-critical infrastructure in the port city of Odesa is without electricity following intense air attacks from Russia. As winter sets in, Ukrainians are preparing for the worst amid concerns Moscow will continue to use energy as a weapon in its war.

One month after Ukraine claimed a major victory with the recapture of Kherson, fighting continues in the east, as Russia looks to advance in the Donbas area. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the military situation there is "very difficult."

Elsewhere in the country, Ukrainian cities still face the threat of Russian air attacks and the prospect that key infrastructure will be knocked out in the winter months. Ukrainian officials warned last month that Kyiv faced the prospect of total electricity shutoff and potential evacuation.

"They're desperate for the equipment, the materials that help them repair the electrical grid that has been so badly damaged," Galadza told Barton. The federal government committed $10 million to help buy generators for Ukraine last month.

"These are attacks on civilian infrastructure, these are supposed to be off limits in war. So this is just a continuation of what he's been doing before, and absolutely, these are exactly the acts that should be tried as war crimes."

Galadza said that she had spoken with several internally displaced people who had left the southern city of Mariupol. And when asked what they needed, the message had been consistent, Galadza said.

"They said 'weapons, weapons, weapons, weapons. We need to win this war.'"

Winter will only slow fighting: Ukrainian MP

The war is approaching the end of its 10th month, but there appears to be little sense of an imminent end as winter sets in. In a separate interview on Rosemary Barton Live, Ukrainian MP Yehor Cherniev said the dropping temperatures would slow but not stop the fighting.

"Yes, the winter cold is another enemy, but it influences both sides," he said, adding that Ukraine would continue to prepare counteroffensives.

Despite the ongoing fighting, Ukrainian officials have pushed back on suggestions that it may be time to negotiate an end to the fighting with Russia. U.S. media reported last month that the administration is privately asking Ukraine to leave a door open to negotiations.

But Zelenskyy has said he will not negotiate with Russia so long as Putin helms the country.

"This is not negotiations, this is an ultimatum from their side," said Cherniev. He said the Ukrainian condition for negotiations is Russian withdrawal from Ukraine, specifically including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

He called for Western countries like Canada to provide more aid in the form of air defence systems and ammunition in order to fight off Russia.

"This is an existential war for us. We will never give up."


Christian Paas-Lang covers federal politics for CBC News in Ottawa as an associate producer with The House and a digital writer with CBC Politics. You can reach him at christian.paas-lang@cbc.ca.

With files from Rosemary Barton, Tyler Buist, The Associated Press and Reuters