REPORTAGE. War in Ukraine: Russia aims "intentionally" power lines in the Donbass, according to technicians of the national grid

Repairing what the Russian forces destroy is the daily life of the employees of the company that manages Ukraine’s electricity network. Vladimir is one of them, at the controls of the nacelle during an intervention in Dobropillia, near Donetsk, in the Donbass, in the east of the country. Three civilians died there this week after an enemy strike. “There, we detach the meter and the electric cables from the pole… We try to help people”explains the technician.

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A destroyed electric pole in Dobropillia, Donbass (Ukraine), in June 2022. (ERIC AUDRA / RADIO FRANCE)

Around Vladimir, ruins in the rain, scrap metal, mud, and then this two-meter crater – the missile pulverized a house. But it was probably not the target of the Russians, according to Vitali Ossinienko, the head of the electricians in this district: “There are no soldiers or equipment here, only our power lines and these private homes. And in most cases, when we intervene, we find that they are targeting the power lines. We also see a lot of shooting on these lines in the fields, where there is nothing else to destroy. So they’re aiming for the lines intentionally.”

The Russian army is also targeting electricians: 14 of them have died in the intervention since the war started here in the Donbass in 2014. That’s why the workers wear bulletproof vests and military helmets. “Several times our guys got shot, says Vitali Ossinienko. In this case, we take shelter under our truck… These are intentional shots by the Russians to chase us from our place of work.” This Russian strategy is clear for the head of the electricians: to terrorize the inhabitants and push them to flee. “Here in the Donyetsk region, the gas network has not been working for several weeks.”

“The only energy today is electricity. That’s why the enemy is trying to destroy this source of energy and thus create a humanitarian catastrophe in the region.”

Vitali Ossinienko, Ukrainian electrician

at franceinfo

Vitali Ossinienko, head of electricians in the Dobropillia sector.  (ERIC AUDRA / RADIO FRANCE)

100 meters from the crater lives Victor. His house was damaged. But at least, in a few hours, the electricity will be restored: “Electricity is a bit like bread. We can’t live without electricity. Without it, people would end up leaving. Without it, we’re screwed…” Nearly 350 villages have been without electricity for several weeks in the region. Impossible to go and fix the lines. Too dangerous for electricians.

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