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Ukraine meets its energy needs despite Russian attacks, PM says

By Olena Harmash

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine is managing to generate as much power as it needs despite heavy damage caused by Russian attacks on its energy network, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Friday.

Shmyhal told a news conference just over a year after Russia's invasion that between 40% and 50% of Ukraine's energy system had been damaged during waves of missile and drone strikes during the winter.

Though millions of people have at times been left without power, Ukraine has quickly carried out repairs, partly with the help of equipment provided by its allies.

"Ukraine is for now provided with (power) generating and network capacities," Shmyhal said. "The next step is to secure the network infrastructure for the next (heating) season."

The measures will include constructing concrete and underground shelters to protect power-generating facilities and distribution networks from potential new attacks, he said.

Since October, Russia has attacked power grids and sub-stations across the country in missile and drone strikes that have hit heavy industry hard, and Ukraine's economy shrank by a third last year.

Shmyhal, who has been prime minister since March 2020, promised a focus on rapid recovery measures this year. The de-mining of recaptured territory and the rebuilding of houses and critical infrastructure would be key, he said.

Ukraine is seeking $17 billion in financing from its Western partners to help with these steps, in addition to $38 billion required to cover its budget deficit.

Shmyhal said Ukraine would continue reforms to meet its wartime challenges and ruled out personnel changes in the near future although he said the government plans at some point to reduce the number of ministries form 20 to 15-16.

"We have a vision on how the cabinet should develop, modernise, responding to the challenges that also include future reconstruction," he said.

European Union leaders accepted Ukraine as a membership candidate last year and Kyiv also wants to join the NATO military alliance.

"Open doors are not enough for us. We are waiting for concrete decisions from our partners," Shmyhal said on NATO the prospect of NATO membership.

(Reporting by Olena Harmash, Editing by Timothy Heritage)