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Ukrainians prepare for Russian attacks on the energy grid during winter

  • Key Message Update
  • Ukraine
  • November 2023
Ukrainians prepare for Russian attacks on the energy grid during winter

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • After making only incremental territorial gains during Ukraine’s summer counter-offensive, the onset of winter will bring new challenges—including freezing temperatures—that are likely to further hinder military operations on the ground, marking a new phase of the war. It is also widely expected that Russia will increase attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure during the winter, as was the case last year. Indeed, on November 25, Russia targeted Kyiv in the biggest drone strike since the start of the war, leaving 16,000 homes without power. However, Ukrainian air defenses are currently stronger than at this time last year and Ukrainian people are notably more prepared with alternative sources of energy and fuel. Even so, many Ukrainians—including the elderly and disabled—whose homes have been destroyed by the fighting are living in shelters that leave them vulnerable to winter temperatures.
    • On November 6, Polish truck drivers began blocking traffic at the Ukrainian-Polish border in protest of an agreement between the EU and Ukraine to waive permit requirements for Ukrainian commercial truckers from June 2022 to July 2024. Polish truck drivers are demanding that the permit requirement be reinstated on January 1, 2024, citing concerns that Ukrainian truck drivers are exploiting the agreement to operate cheaply in Poland, undermining the Polish workforce. The ongoing blockade is causing an estimated one-fifth of Ukraine’s monthly imports to remain stuck at the border. Disruptions to supply of key commodities including food and fuel have already resulted in domestic price increases, with petrol prices rising 30 percent and prices of many meat and dairy items rising by around 5 percent, according to Ukrainian officials. Rising fuel prices are expected to strain poor households’ ability to meet their needs, particularly in the cold winter months when energy expenditure requirements are higher. 
    • As of November 24, farmers in unoccupied Ukrainian territory had harvested 75.7 million tons of grains and oilseeds in the ongoing 2023/24 marketing year (spanning July 2023 to June 2024), including 2.49 million tons of maize and 22.5 million tons of wheat. Of this year’s total harvest, Ukraine requires only 25 percent to meet domestic requirements, with the rest available for export. While agricultural production of key crops in unoccupied territory has increased compared to last year, production has declined in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. According to NASA Harvest satellite-based production estimates for the 2023/24 marketing year, area planted under winter wheat in Russian-occupied territory decreased by 10 percent compared to last year. Meanwhile, yield in Russian-occupied territory was more than 20 percent lower than in unoccupied territory. 
    • The Black Sea humanitarian grain corridor—a route hugging the coastline to afford greater protection from Russian attack following the expiration of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July—continues to operate successfully. As of November 24, 153 ships carrying over 5.6 million tons of grain and other cargo had passed through the corridor since its establishment in August. As of November 11, trade data from the Ukrainian Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food indicate that a total 17.9 million tons of grains and oilseeds had been exported from the country since the start of the 2023/24 marketing year in July. Of the total, the vast majority (69 percent) have been exported via Ukraine’s ports, followed by rail exports (22 percent), road (6 percent), and ferry (3 percent). Month-to-month export levels have generally been increasing since July 2023, driven by increasing exports via Ukraine’s ports, though monthly export totals remain significantly lower than during the period of peak recovery in late 2022/early 2023 when monthly export totals were near pre-invasion levels.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Ukraine Key Message Update November 2023: Ukrainians prepare for Russian attacks on the energy grid during winter, 2023.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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