Skip to content

Putin’s unwelcome wake up call

Ukraine is now facing an even colder, darker, winter
A Russian bomb lands near Samsung’s headquarters in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by Phil Bialobzyski)

By Phil Bialobzyski

Special to The Terrace Standard

My stay in Kyiv has come to an end. I am taking a train to Ternopil, a city of 220 thousand people, 400 kilometres to the south west of Kyiv. My train would leave at 8:30 the next morning so I had to set my alarm. I didn’t have to - Putin made sure I got a wake up call.

Before my alarm went off the buildings across the street were bombed - yet again. What is being targeted is a Soviet era heating plant across the street. From other news reports it is operating at 25 per cent capacity and is slated for demolition. Putin is targeting the power grid all over the country.

My Airbnb host, Olgeg, dropped in at 7:00 to pick up the apartment keys. He doesn’t speak English and I do not speak Ukrainian. When I let him in I just said ‘boom boom’ and he tensely nodded between a clenched jaw tak tak (yes yes). His walk over to the apartment must have been like running a gauntlet. As we were doing some interesting foreign language mime and charades there were more explosions.

It could have been the generators that got hit as I saw some large sparks - from later news reports this could have been the ground launched anti-missile that flew in front of my apartment building. I did not want to risk taking the elevator from the seventh floor so I took the stairs.

I could smell the distinct smell of an electrical fire. The Russians are using the Iranian Kamikaze drones. The Ukrainians call them ‘mopeds’ because they actually use a noisy moped engine mounted in the aft. In pictures they look like a radio controlled model of the Avro Arrow. Ground launched in swarms, they are noisy and slow.

There are reports that Putin is running out of ammunition - I would be very circumspect of the accuracy of this. What he is doing is buying lots more less expensive ammunition. Shopping at the ammunition dollar store, Putin can get more bang for his buck. But the missiles are less accurate so he has to use more of them. And less accurate means more civilian collateral damage; but do you think Putin is worried about civilian collateral damage? I took the short walk from my apartment over to the train station.

Streets were cordoned off and emergency response was on scene. I took a few pictures of the power station and adjacent buildings on fire along with news crews from all over the world getting their stories.

Arriving at the train station no one was allowed in - prevention in case of missile strike. One of the guards noticed my frustration and was helpful, pulling out his cell phone and using Google translate he showed me the way to get to the platform without going through the station.

There were many people gathered in the walkways beneath the platforms for shelter along with the others waiting for their trains. After some difficulties I found my correct platform and the other passengers and I started boarding the train 15 minutes before our departure.

Just as we were completing our boarding, two more bombs went off behind the train. There was a mass exodus off of my car like the doors opening at the Terrace Walmart Black Friday sale. They were running off the train as if the bombs were chasing them. If they all understood English I would have yelled at them — “stay on the train and lets get the $%^& outta here!” But this is very hard to do in mime and charades. I hunkered down between the seats; the cars wouldn’t explode and they would provide concussion protection.

After a few minutes the passengers came back on. The train isn’t full. A mixture of all ages. There were a couple of older men that took seats across the aisle from me. Panting heavily and stowing their heavy luggage with great effort. I thought if the bombs didn’t get these guys the cardiac arrest would.

Surprisingly the train left on time. It’s a fast train at times getting up to 160 kilometres per hour. The fall morning sun, that at this time of year is bright and clear, shines behind the huge trees lining the railway tracks. As we sped away, the sunlight flashed through my window matching my pounding heartbeat.

The Kyiv neighbourhood near the power station was bombed for several days after I left. As a result of the week’s bombing — 40 per cent of Ukraine’s power capability had been destroyed as of October.

Ukraine is now facing power blackouts and an even colder, darker, winter.

This is the last in a three part series by Phil Bialobzyski during his recent time in Ukraine

READ MORE: ‘Business as usual’ amid war in Ukraine

READ MORE: Dispatch from Ukraine: The war has returned to Kyiv