Hundreds of gas stations closed, signs with prices covered, queues for miles. Russian attacks on key Ukrainian infrastructure have led to massive fuel shortages across the country. The lack of gasoline, the restrictions on refueling and the rise in prices make it difficult for citizens to leave and move from the areas most affected by the Russian invasion. They also complicate the distribution of supplies and humanitarian aid in Europe’s largest country, with more than 600,000 square kilometers.
Half of Ukraine’s gas stations are not fully operational, according to industry estimates, and most of those that remain open have capped the civilian population. The fuel problems feed a sense of some anguish when the Government has warned that Russia is preparing to launch new and intense attacks in several areas of the country and the Ukrainian troops promote a counteroffensive in the northeast.
In Dobropillia, a small town in the Donetsk region of the Donbass area, the true focus these days is at the service station operating for many kilometers around. The few that remain in the area will probably be or pass through there at some point. There is no gasoline, but they serve gas. And there are not a few cars that are powered by this energy source. The queue to refuel is kilometers long. The station has not received supplies for more than two weeks and drivers are rushing to fill up before the reserves run out or restrictions on gas refueling are also introduced.
The queue is so long that Olha decided to save a seat for her father, Aleksandr, as he passed the gas station on foot. When he pulls up behind the wheel of a shiny, hard, rock-solid old Moskvich, he maneuvers into the middle of the line, earning him several honks. The 65-year-old man supplements his meager pension by working as a taxi driver and if he doesn’t refuel he doesn’t work, he says. For now he is doing well because his deposit is for gas, but he is worried about the rise in prices. Ella’s daughter Olha, who has a two-year-old daughter, is worried about being stuck in Dobropilia. “The beginning of the war was a shock enormous, then the prices of products started to rise, there were more attacks. And now this,” he laments.
The attack by Vladimir Putin’s forces on the large Kremenchuk oil refinery in the Poltava region on April 25 has left Ukraine in a situation of famine, worsening a problem already created by bottlenecks in the transport in a country at war and enormous, and by the cut of supply from Belarus, an ally of Moscow. Added to that offensive, which left the refinery completely destroyed, were several attacks against fuel depots and infrastructure throughout the country. The Russian Ministry of Defense has also assured that it has attacked several warehouses of petroleum products used by the Ukrainian Army.
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The fuel shortage does not affect the Ukrainian Army and the emergency services for now, which are going another way. They largely use diesel and are drawing from reserves. They also have priority in arrivals. Those who are affected are the hundreds of displaced people fleeing their homes in the face of the Russian offensive in parts of the south and east. Also those who return to their homes in territories that are no longer in the front line, when the invasion has completed 10 weeks. In most gas stations that still have fuel, the limit for the civilian population is 10 liters, explains the head of a service station in the city of Dnipro, in the center of the country and where Russia has also launched attacks on infrastructure. The queues are repeated at gas stations throughout the country.
The Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, has reported that the government is drawing up a system to speed up and better distribute fuel shipments received from abroad. “Queues and rising prices at gas stations are seen in many regions of our country,” he said a few days ago in one of his late-night speeches. “The Russian occupiers are deliberately destroying the infrastructure for fuel production, supply and storage,” Zelensky added.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister of Economy Yulia Svyrydenko has promised to alleviate the shortage within a week. However, he has warned that prices will rise “slightly” – Ukraine has already experienced a rise due to the sharp rise in international oil prices caused by the war with Russia – due to complicated logistics, the use of “difficult routes and various methods of transportation” to secure fuel from European suppliers, he commented in a post on his Facebook page.
Charting the receiving routes will not be easy. Kremlin troops have put the spotlight on the Ukrainian supply chain. The Russian blockade of the seaports of the Eastern country – Moscow controls the Sea of Azov and has fenced off the Black Sea – means that shipments will have to arrive by other routes. The specialized Ukrainian consultancy Grupo A-95 predicts that the supply of gasoline will be stable by June.
In the Donetsk region, in the midst of the second phase of Russia’s war against Ukraine and after the Kremlin had singled out the Donbass area in the east of the country as the focus of its next step in the offensive against Ukraine, many small towns They look ghostly. In Kramatorsk, after the attack on the train station on April 8, there has been a huge exodus. The fuel problem, with a complicated supply line in the area, is great; Although there are not many cars left.
Ukrainian troops have launched an intense counter-offensive in the northeast and managed to push back Russian forces in several areas around Kharkov from where they launched attacks on the country’s second-largest city, heavily hit by Russian forces. Meanwhile, Moscow’s troops are bogged down in the east, where the Kremlin is moving troops from other areas and from far flung parts of Russia. With few military achievements to advertise at home, Russia will seek to reclaim “full control” of the city of Mariupol by May 9, when Russia celebrates the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany with grand parades, according to the Institute for the War Study (a specialized organization based in Washington).
It already dominates the devastated city and the port and only the Azovstal steelworks – where the Ukrainian military have been strong for weeks and some 200 civilians are still sheltering – stands in the way of its announcement. The Ukrainian government, with the mediation of the UN and the International Red Cross, has already removed several hundred civilians from the steel plant, which has kilometers of tunnels and bunkers in its entrails, and where there are also wounded soldiers. kyiv denounces that despite the announcement of a ceasefire to facilitate a humanitarian corridor, the Kremlin troops are complicating the rescue.