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After taking out Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Russia tries to incite anti-blackout riots

power blackout Ukraine Kyiv
A lone window is illuminated in a dark building amid power outages in Kyiv. Photo: Serhiy Ristenko
After taking out Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Russia tries to incite anti-blackout riots
Article by: Zarina Zabrisky
Rolling blackouts are now Ukraine’s new normal after Russia struck more than 50% of the power infrastructure. Many places are without power for half of the day; some, like Odesa, have had no electricity for several days, and the Kremlin is busy attempting to incite riots against the power outages. But there’s one thing standing in the way: Russian trolls don’t know Ukrainian…

Recently, the Russian provocateurs are active on social media, trying to sow discord in Odesa, alienate Odesa from other regions of Ukraine and try to incite riots against the power outages. They created a hashtag #LightsOnZelenskyyOff and new bots to share the posts. The Russian propagandists used Russian to Ukraine Google Translate to create their posts and slogans, leaving the Kremlin signature and causing a storm of jokes and memes on Ukrainian social media channels.

One of the top hits was the translation of “electric supply” as “electric nutrition,” “patience” as “urine” and “torture” as “baking flour” which made a now iconic nonsense phrase, something like “Half of the country does not have electric nutrition, we don’t have any more urine to put up with hellish baking flour!”

The chief editor of Odesa Courier Oliksander Velmozhko noted that a popular social platform Telegram channel “Typical Odesa” (100,000 subscribers) spreads two fake narratives: Ukrainian authorities are responsible for the blackouts because Ukraine allegedly exports excess electricity to EU countries and the electricity intended for Odesa is transferred to Lviv. “Typical Odesa” channel follows up with multiple posts from ordinary Russians who “feel very sorry” for the people of Odesa because Odesa is special to Russia. Notably, the administrator of the channel is based in Russia.

“The aim of the propagandists is to stir up the society, exhausted by power outages, and to divert attention from the Russian missile strikes causing Ukrainians to have power outages,” wrote Ukrenergo, a state-owned electricity transmission system operator. “The export of electricity from Ukraine has been stopped on October 11 by the decision of the Ministry of Energy. Until October 10, Ukraine actually exported electricity to the EU, thereby earning substantial funds for the state. After the massive missile attack on October 10, exports were suspended and are not carried out… The export of electricity from Ukraine is zero.”

I personally got a Facebook comment from a Russian troll, asking,  “And how long will you hold on like this? Is an uprising coming soon?” in response to my post about blackouts in Odesa.

When a Ukrainian friend replied that it was not going to happen, the troll answered with death threats and was then banned from Facebook for breaking community standards.

There were two instances of people protesting during the last week in Odesa and, within a day, the provocateur inciting protests was identified.

During the last week, a couple of dozen residents attended two protests against the emergency blackouts in Odesa. The pseudo-protests were organized by a provocateur in a house chat and were depicted on Russian media as mass protests against Ukrainian authorities.

Hybrid war: Kholodomor and the energy blackmail worldwide

The Russian special services hope to break Ukrainian morale and unity through a new Kholodomor (Death by cold).

It has been 90 years since Holodomor (Death by hunger), the Stalin-engineered genocide of the Ukrainian people but the Kremlin’s genocidal methods change very little. There is also fake news about water shutdowns being spread on social media to destabilize the atmosphere more. Luckily, in the 21st century, Ukraine has many ways of resisting attacks and disinformation and most people have learned to recognize provocations.

Not so in every country targeted by the Kremlin. For instance, in Moldova, as Euromaidan Press reported, Putin’s government has recently created an energy crisis and staged protests by busing hired retirees from villages.

The spectre of the FSB haunts Moldova, next target of Russia’s hybrid war

As I previously mentioned in Byline Times, “the Kremlin weaponizes energy, and corruption, stages protests, and undermines governments as a part of its hybrid war strategy. ‘Russian influence operations attempt to exploit weaknesses in target countries in order to destabilize them from within,'” said the US Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nelson.

“Without light or without you? Without you.”

“Read my lips: Without gas or without you? Without you. Without light or without you? Without you. Without water or without you? Without you. Without food or without you? Without you,” Zelensky wrote in September. “Cold, hunger, darkness, and thirst are not as scary and deadly for us as your ‘friendship and brotherhood. But history will put everything in its place. And we will be with gas, light, water, and food … and WITHOUT you!”

The president’s message resonates with people. In liberated Kherson, people said that they preferred to live without power, water, and the Internet than with Russians.

Most people in Odesa also realize that there is a price to be paid for freedom and take the darkness with the infamous Odesa humor. Come the weekend, Odesites still go outside and dance in Deribasivska street, just like they do every weekend. Petya and Lisa, the baristas from cafe Pepe, dance in the streets every weekend. They invite me to come and join them. I’d love to but I also film these gatherings so it will be hard to do.

As I am finishing this article in Pepe cafe, I receive a message that planned blackouts are to be implemented in Odesa tomorrow. Ukrenergo reports that the power system is still not fully recovered from six waves of Russian missile strikes and cannot operate at full capacity.

“Ukrainians will most likely have to live in a power outage mode at least until the end of March,” said YASNO CEO Serhiy Kovalenko. If there are no new attacks, the country will return to the previous level of energy generation and there will be enough electricity to stop shutdowns.

“We are going to teach kids to make pastry and after work we are going dancing in the streets this weekend,” says Petya.

How I live without power in Odesa


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