KYIV, Ukraine — Rolling blackouts will be put in place in seven regions across Ukraine to keep the power grid from failing, Ukraine’s national energy utility said on Saturday, after repeated waves of Russian aerial bombardment targeting infrastructure have debilitated the system and left it in danger of collapse.
Given that electricity is necessary for keeping most essential services running, local governments have been stepping up efforts to prepare for any extended loss of power, even as Ukraine’s allies vowed in recent days to speed up the delivery of air defense systems to help ward off further Russian strikes on Ukraine’s power infrastructure.
Kyiv, the capital, is also preparing more than 1,000 heating shelters that can double as bunkers for civilians. Emergency workers there are preparing for all scenarios, including a complete blackout that would prompt an evacuation of the capital, where some three million people live, Roman Tkachuk, the director of security for the city’s government, said in an interview.
“We understand that if Russia continues such attacks, we may lose our entire electricity system,” he said on Friday. “That’s why we are preparing for a cold winter.”
More than 40 percent of the nation’s critical energy infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed by Russian strikes, Ukrainian officials say. Utility officials have warned that replacement equipment will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and is hard to source.
In Kyiv, most of the heating shelters are being set up in educational facilities, the exact locations of which the authorities asked not be revealed, since they fear making them an easy target.
In one school, the basement has been stocked with pallets of bottled water, makeshift classrooms have been set up, and a fire truck was stationed in a courtyard just outside the auditorium. Just across the hall from disaster preparedness kits was a reminder of the sense of normalcy the school once enjoyed: a large standing poster of Minnie Mouse.
On Friday, a Russian missile hit a facility run by the distributor that is responsible for bringing power from the grid to people’s homes in Ukraine. It was the 12th energy facility hit in the last month, the company said.
Because of the ongoing threat, only essential employees are working at its distribution sites, and there were no casualties. But the attack “significantly damaged the energy equipment of the enterprise,” the company said.
The national utility, Ukrenergo, said on Saturday that power cuts were needed to “reduce the load on the networks, ensure sustainable balancing of the power system, and avoid repeated accidents after the power grids were damaged by Russian missile and drone attacks.”
The blackouts will affect Kyiv and the surrounding area, as well as the regions of Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Kharkiv, Poltava, Sumy and Zhytomyr, the utility said.
In the capital, the authorities have been told that they will likely have at least 12 hours’ notice that the grid was failing to such a degree that quick repairs and other measures would not allow for even limited power. At that point, Mr. Tkachuk said, “we will start informing people and requesting them to leave.”
He said that although the situation was currently manageable and there was no indication that people were leaving Kyiv in large numbers, the loss of power throughout the city was a real prospect.
“If there’s no power, there will be no water and no sewage,” he said. “That’s why currently the government and city administration are taking all possible measures to protect our power supply system.”