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Ukraine introduces emergency power cuts in east and southeast

FILE PHOTO: Employees repair electric power lines damaged by Russian military strikes in Kherson region

By Olena Harmash

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine introduced emergency power cuts in eastern and southeastern regions on Wednesday as low temperatures and difficult weather conditions stretched the country's crippled energy system, officials said.

The power cuts underscored the weakness of Ukraine's power system after three months of Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure. Officials have said about 40% of the system has been damaged.

The national grid operator, Ukrenergo, said emergency power cuts had been introduced in the Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv regions, and other regions continued with scheduled electricity cuts.

"This is a forced step to avoid serious accidents and maintain the stable work of the energy system. It has not recovered yet from the enemy's strikes. It has a considerable capacity deficit. Now, due to frosts, electricity usage has increased a lot," Valentin Reznichenko, Dnipropetrovsk regional governor, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Energy workers have been trying to repair power lines and generation capacity after the attacks, but difficult winter weather had added to the problems.

Ukrenergo said strong winds had damaged networks in some areas. The situation with electricity supplies in frontline regions and in the south was complicated by the extent of the damage inflicted during heavy fighting, it said.

Serhiy Kovalenko, CEO of Yasno energy supplier, said on his Facebook page that "every -5С (degrees Celsius) added +200 MW (megawatts) in consumption."

"Generation will not increase but consumption is rising. It means the deficit is growing," said Kovalenko, urging residents to be ready for electricity cuts and blackouts until the end of March.

(Reporting by Olena Harmash, Editing by Timothy Heritage)