FT reveals how Ukraine fortifies for Russia's looming attacks on energy facilities
Energy (Photo: Pixabay)

Ukraine is preparing for Russian attacks on energy. In particular, sandbags are installed around energy facilities, their roofs are covered with netting, and those elements that do not require ventilation are moved underground, Financial Times reports.

For example, a wall of concrete blocks was built to protect transformers at a critical power grid substation in the north of Ukraine. Another nearby substation is surrounded by gabions (cylinder cages) filled with rocks or sand.

The editorial office also obtained pictures from representatives of the energy industry, which show that sandbags and cage roofs are being installed across the country to protect hundreds of small targets that can be destroyed in a single blow and cause a massive power outage.

The Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov said that these "big bags saved us many times and they protect us from debris of drones and missiles."

"We call it passive protection," Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal told the Financial Times. He added that the country is "much more prepared" after testing and improving its fortifications during Russian missile strikes last winter.

Infrastructure elements that do not require ventilation were moved underground. Damaged electrical cables can be quickly replaced, but substations and transformers take longer to repair. However, spare parts are stored in bordering allied countries with the possibility of faster ordering.

Shmyhal added that about 40% of Ukrainian electricity infrastructure was destroyed a year ago, but most of this damage has already been repaired.

Ukraine has taken steps to decentralize its grid, so damage in one location is less likely to affect other regions, the prime minister says.

DTEK CEO Maksym Timchenko said that after Russia destroyed a 300 MW coal-fired generator last winter, his company invested in building 50 separate turbines, each producing 6 MW.

"They can hit one turbine but 49 would still be operating," he explained.

If mass power outages repeat, the last resort, as last winter, will be smaller generators running on diesel and other fuels, provided by allies and purchased by households and businesses.

But given the fact that more than 100 substations and high-voltage power lines are scattered throughout the country, it is really impossible to cover the entire territory of Ukraine with air defense means, said Oleksandr Kharchenko, director of the Kyiv-based Energy Industry Research Center.

He believes that there will probably have to be regular blackouts of one to two hours if the temperature drops below minus ten degrees Celsius this winter.

"If there will be massive air strikes, I cannot predict the scale of blackouts," the expert added.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned on October 25 that Ukraine will respond to attacks on energy facilities if Russia strikes them again.

The Ministry of Energy believes that Russia will resume attacks on energy infrastructure with the onset of cold weather.