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Russia is finishing the year with continued strikes on Ukraine's electrical grid

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Russian airstrikes hit multiple cities in Ukraine today. The attacks make this a normal day for Ukraine as 2022 comes to an end. In Lviv in the west, the mayor said this morning 90% of the city is without power. More strikes hit the capital, Kyiv, and also in Kharkiv to the northeast, which is where we find NPR's Tim Mak, who's covered much of this war. Hey there, Tim.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there. Good morning.

INSKEEP: What's it like there?

MAK: Well, we heard multiple explosions this morning. And actually, as we're sitting and anticipating this air alert, you can kind of almost predict these explosions happening. The light kind of flickers a little bit. And then, a few seconds later, you hear the explosion catch up to you, and you hear this big boom. Now, we don't know what's been targeted this morning. But yesterday, here in Kharkiv, two strikes hit the city's energy infrastructure. The temperature has been hovering around freezing over the last week, and this bitter wind makes life here just that much harder. The Ukrainians pushed the Russian military out of this region - the region of Kharkiv - in September in this flash counteroffensive, but there is still concern here that the Russians could be back soon. I spoke to the brigadier general that's in charge of the defense of this region, Serhiy Melnyk.

SERHIY MELNYK: (Speaking Ukrainian).

MAK: He says Putin still has the same ambitions, despite losing initial battles in Ukraine, and that they have intelligence that shows that the Russian military is mobilizing again for another possible attack. Meanwhile, the energy issues have been particularly serious in the capital city of Kyiv, and they have been since October, when Russia really started focusing on Ukraine's power system. There's a lot of tension and anticipation in the air about additional strikes around New Year's.

INSKEEP: Well, how do people adjust when the war becomes a daily reality?

MAK: You know, people are so adaptable. They look at the blackouts as a near-daily matter. I mean, this morning at breakfast, we heard this big explosion. The lights kind of flickered for a little bit. Then the backup power kicked in. The music stopped for a second and then just kind of started up again abruptly. I mean, generators here power cafes. And local businesspeople who have been unable to find work inside of Ukraine are looking to clients abroad to make up the difference. And now Yaroslav Trofimov owns a cafe and club in Odesa, and he says small-business owners like himself have to spend thousands of dollars on generators.

YAROSLAV TROFIMOV: Then I take a calculator, and I just do small math. And I see they will maybe spend two years covering the price of a generator. So why do they still do coffee? They do coffee because maybe they just don't want to give up.

MAK: And the national economy needs them not to give up. Ukrainian economists still estimate that the country's GDP has declined by one-third, which would be devastating to any country under any circumstances. But this is actually better than the most dire predictions from the outset of the war. And next year, the International Monetary Fund actually expects the Ukrainian economy to stabilize.

INSKEEP: What do you hear from the front lines, where things have not been that stable?

MAK: The battle lines have not moved significantly over the last couple of weeks, but there's been fighting over areas in the south and east of the country. Now, at the moment, there are enormous amounts of munitions being used by both sides, but without the sort of sudden advances that we've seen earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the death toll is climbing. The U.N. estimated this week that nearly 7,000 civilians have been killed over the past 10 months. But it also acknowledges that the actual tally is probably much higher, since data from Russian-occupied areas is hard to come by. And that makes negotiating an end to the war really very difficult.

INSKEEP: NPR's Tim Mak in Kharkiv as 2022 nears an end. Tim, thanks so much.

MAK: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Tim Mak is NPR's Washington Investigative Correspondent, focused on political enterprise journalism.