'Ready to endure' years of power cuts to join EU, says Ukraine First Lady

'Ready to endure' years of power cuts to join EU, says Ukraine First Lady
Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska.

Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska has told the BBC that Ukrainians were willing to endure years of power shortages if it means they can join the EU.

As temperatures drop below freezing in Kyiv, she stressed that Ukraine will continue to fight as "without victory, there can be no peace."

Zelenska cited a recent poll in which 90 % of Ukrainians indicated their willing to live with electricity shortages for the next two to three years if there is a chance of joining the European Union.

"We are ready to endure," the First Lady insisted, stressing that "we've had so many terrible challenges, seen so many victims, so much destruction; blackouts are not the worst thing to happen to us."

Half of Kyiv in the dark

The interview comes as most Ukrainians have been left without power after Russia on Wednesday launched fresh attacks on Ukraine's already fragile energy grid. Cities lost power and water and public transport was brought to a halt, painting a grim outlook for the cold months ahead.

Millions of Ukrainians spent Thursday without power in the wake of massive Russian missile strikes that once again targeted water and electricity supply infrastructure. This Russian strategy has been described as “war crimes” by Ukraine’s Western allies.

"Such terror began immediately after the Russian army was forced to flee from the Kherson region," said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an address on Thursday. "This is the revenge of those who lost."

"They can't fight. The only thing they can still do is terrorize. Either energy terror, or artillery terror, or missile terror – that's all Russia has come to under its current leaders."

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Friday morning half of Kyiv's residents still lacked access to electricity although a third had gotten heating back, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko writing on Telegram. He added that "energy companies plan to connect electricity for all consumers on a rotating basis.”

To provide Ukraine with power generators, the European Parliament and a network of European cities on Thursday launched the "Generators of Hope" programme to give Ukraine the energy equipment it needs now to get through the harsh winter.

Ukraine applied for EU membership in February 2022 and was granted EU candidate status in June 2022.

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