Ukrainians endure grim winter as Russia destroys infrastructure – in maps

Humanitarian crisis unfolding amid freezing weather, energy grid damage and displaced and vulnerable population

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Ukraine has faced temperatures as low as -20C this winter, at the same time as dealing with a humanitarian crisis as Russia hits key civilian infrastructure, analysis has shown.

Humanitarian groups have warned that attacks in the coldest winter months can “devastate” civilian lives, limiting access to energy and water for vulnerable groups such as displaced and elderly people.

Areas in Dnipro, Donetsk and Kharkiv are particularly vulnerable, according to research from Reach, an initiative from the Impact thinktank that provides humanitarian data and analysis. Some areas are housing tens of thousands of displaced people through the winter, at the same time as crucial infrastructure – including energy and housing – is being targeted by Russian missiles and artillery.


The combination of plunging temperatures, infrastructure damage and a vulnerable population of displaced and elderly people has made many concerned about the developing humanitarian crisis.

Achille Després, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesperson in Ukraine, said: “Attacks against civilian infrastructure have left millions facing the coldest nights of the year with limited heat, electricity and water. This makes basic activities like cooking, drinking clean water and staying warm extremely challenging.

“Communities close to the frontline and the most vulnerable people such as the elderly, children, people with disabilities and those who have been forced out of their homes, are among the most affected. Damages to critical infrastructure can plunge entire communities into despair and devastate civilian lives. International humanitarian law can offer crucial protection, but only if states respect their legal obligations.”

Ben McCann, an analyst at the Centre for Information Resilience, warned that millions of Ukrainians have been left without access to drinking water, cashless payments for groceries, telecommunications networks and heating. “The only factors that stopped these attacks from having a greater impact on Ukrainian human security was the civilian population’s resilience and the ability of authorities and communities to respond to these challenges proactively.”

Data notes

Infrastructure damage data is from the Centre for Information Resilience. Each point of reported damage has been verified by the CIR. Events shown are from 1 September 2022 to 29 January 2023. The points plotting damage will be an underestimate due to issues with reporting damage in a warzone. This is especially the case in the occupied regions of eastern Ukraine.

Data on the number of arrivals from internally displaced people is sourced from the Displacement Tracking Matrix and is as of 25 December 2022.

Daily temperature data is based on Guardian analysis of Copernicus Climate Change Service data and runs to 29 January 2023.

The latest information on the area that Russia controls is sourced from Institute for the Study of War and is as of 2 February.

• The graphic on this article was amended on 7 February 2023. An image of Kharkiv was used twice, with one caption mistakenly saying it was Kyiv. This has been corrected.


Antonio Voce, Ashley Kirk, Isobel Koshiw and Lucy Swan

The GuardianTramp

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