At the bottom of a shrapnel-pocked stairwell, Oleg methodically chops discarded green Russian ammunition crates into firewood.
Early snow has already fallen around his damaged apartment block and he and his grandmother are racing to prepare for the onset of the real winter.
Their block has no water or heating. Vladimir Putin’s latest missile barrage against the national grid has now also cut their electricity, along with that of millions of other Ukrainians.
“We know how winter can be,” says Oleg, a softly spoken youth, who declines to give his full name. “Somehow we will survive.”
His grandmother, Evdokia, appears less sanguine. “We need more help. It’s a difficult life now, after they came and destroyed everything,” she says tearfully.
Nine months after Russia’s invasion, Ukraine is facing what the mayor of Kyiv has predicted will be the nation’s worst winter since the Second World War.
Temperatures may fall as low as -20C and months of shelling and missile attacks mean many will meet the bitter cold with patchy heat and light, or inadequate shelter.
The Kremlin’s strategy of trying to break Ukrainian resistance by shattering infrastructure has pitched millions of civilians onto a new front line featuring cold, faltering utilities and a battle to keep up winter morale.
Mr Putin was “clearly weaponising winter to inflict immense suffering on the Ukrainian people” and “try to freeze the country into submission”, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the UN, said on Thursday.
“Having struggled on the battlefield, Moscow is now adopting a cowardly and inhumane strategy that punishes Ukrainian men, women and children.”
For Oleg’s family, winter preparations include building up large stocks of firewood, covering the windows for insulation and amassing warm clothing.
His block in the eastern city of Izyum was badly damaged in heavy fighting early in the invasion and only two apartments are now occupied. He and his grandmother are reluctant to leave in case they lose everything to looters.
Nearby, a woman called Tatiana says she lost her home when her block of flats on Pershotravneva Street was demolished by Russian strikes in March. Ukrainian authorities say some 54 people died when the building collapsed on families sheltering in the basement.
With her apartment gone, she has moved into a summer house, which this week had no electricity, or gas, but had a wood stove to keep warm.
With cupboards full of tinned food and pickles, and a plentiful supply of wood, she said she was not worried about the winter and it could be no worse than the terrible first weeks of the invasion.
“We have chopped wood, we will survive,” she told The Telegraph. “They have destroyed my apartment already. That was worse than this. This is our life and our life has prepared us. We will not give up and everything that happened in March was much worse than now. We already know it can be worse.”
The biggest fear for many of those in Izyum is not winter, but the prospect that Russian forces might again push towards them. The city was captured in March after heavy fighting and then the Russian forces were evicted by a counter offensive in September. Authorities say as much as four-fifths of the city was damaged.
Artem Famenko, a 39-year-old worker with the municipal water department, said: “I am a bit worried about winter, but we have been preparing, getting firewood ready and warm clothing. More than anything, we hope that there will not be another invasion.”
As fighting raged and the city changed hands, he said he had already been without electricity for around six months this year.
“Although we had no electricity, somehow we survived. Human beings will find a way to survive in any conditions,” he said.
Waves of Russian missiles and exploding drones have badly damaged Ukraine’s power grid, knocking out as much as half of its capacity.
As the damage mounts, the outages last longer. Wednesday saw some of the most destructive attacks on the system yet and two days later half of the capital was still without power as engineers struggled to reconnect people.
James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary, said Russia was “continuing to try and break Ukrainian resolve through its brutal attacks on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure”.
“Russia will fail,” he said on a visit to Kyiv on Friday.
Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, said earlier this week that Mr Putin’s strikes on Wednesday had created a situation not seen for 80 or 90 years – “a country on the European continent where there was totally no light”.
“Together we endured nine months of full-scale war and Russia has not found a way to break us, and will not find one,” he added.
To try to rally morale, authorities have set up “invincibility centres”, where people can charge phones, warm up and get hot drinks.
Yet despite the Ukrainians’ defiance, aid agencies have warned the winter will bring huge difficulties and may set off a new wave of displacement. More than six million Ukrainians have already left their homes to move to other parts of the country.
Dr Hans Kluge, Europe director for the World Health Organisation, has warned: “Put simply, this winter will be about survival.”
“We expect two to three million more people to leave their homes in search of warmth and safety,” he said.
In the worst affected areas, in the east and south east, or in regions occupied by Russian forces, many have already been without utilities for months. Now as the temperatures drop, Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said that people were potentially facing a grim choice to “flee or freeze”.
Many Ukrainians in Russian-occupied territories are thought to have had virtually no assistance since the war began. As winter makes life more difficult, they may be forced to make perilous escapes across frontlines.
“It’s going to be an incredibly difficult winter and providing humanitarian assistance really is a matter of life and death,” said Marysia Zapasnik, Ukraine director for the International Rescue Committee aid agency.
Winter will not only bring difficulties for civilians, but also for troops on both sides.
As temperatures have dropped, even if snow has yet to arrive everywhere, soldiers are living with heavy freezing rain. Ukrainian forces say some troops are suffering from trench foot, a medical condition associated with swelling and numbness of the feet that also afflicted large numbers of soldiers in the First World War.
But Ukrainian forces hope they will be able to better endure the rigours of winter than their badly-equipped Russian foes. Newly-mobilised Russian forces have complained of being thrown into the front lacking proper equipment and clothing.
In the eastern city of Kharkiv, Igor Terekhov, the mayor, said he too was confident that Ukraine would prevail against Mr Putin’s attempts to weaponise winter.
He admitted his engineers were finding it difficult to get heating systems back up without electricity, but said it would be done.
He said: “Of course we are nervous. We understand winter is coming and we understand that the attacks will continue.
But he went on: “All these strikes are concentrating our community, concentrating our nation to unite. Yes, the situation is hard, but it’s a great mistake for our enemy to think they can change the will of the Ukrainian people.”
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