Russia bombs Sonoma sister city Kaniv, Ukraine, striking critical infrastructure

The hydroelectric power plant of Kaniv, Sonoma’s Ukrainian sister city, was bombed by Russia’s military in late October, which U.S. officials have called a ‘war crime.’|

How you can help Kaniv

The Sonoma Sister Cities Association created a fund for Kaniv residents to buy food, water, fuel and medical supplies. According to the fundraiser’s description, “100% of monies received will go directly to our sister city to help the Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion.”

To donate to the fundraiser, go to givebutter.com/SisterCities_Kaniv. Or you can write a check to Sonoma Sister Cities Association indicating "Ukraine" on the subject line and mail it to SSCA, PO Box 1975, Sonoma, CA 95476.

As the tide of war has shifted in Ukraine, Russian forces have began to target critical civilian infrastructure, including Sonoma’s sister city of Kaniv.

Letters from Anatoliy Leontyev, the president of the Kaniv/Ukraine Friendship Society, describe the toll of bombings on the city’s necessary infrastructure, which has caused mandatory power shut-offs, shuttered in-person schools and reduced windows for miles to shards of broken glass.

U.S. Ambassador Michael Carpenter announced Kaniv’s hydroelectric power plant was bombed by Russian Federation forces on Monday, Oct. 31, as part of a strategy to “inflict maximal pain and cruelty on Ukraine’s civilian population.”

Leontyev’s letters describe life in a war zone, under siege through nighttime air raids and on edge as the city rations its vital resources.

“I communicate a lot with students,” Leontyev wrote to the Sonoma Sister Cities Association. “Most of them experienced fear of death and panic at the beginning of the war. Now they have a picture of what is happening in their head. And the values of patriotism and life prevailed.”

Sonoma Sister Cities Association has donated approximately $100,000 to Kaniv, which authorities have used for food and protective equipment. But the current need is generators as the conflict enters winter’s cold months with reduced power supplies.

“We have introduced restrictions on the use of electricity. Four hours with electricity and two hours without it,” Leontyev said in a letter to the Sister Sister Cities Association. “In such conditions, it is also necessary to organize work with students via the internet. Life constantly poses new challenges.”

Since March, Russia has made Kaniv’s hydroelectric power plant a strategic objective in its efforts to seize Ukraine’s main power sources used by the citizen population.

“The war finally really touched Kaniv,” Leontyev wrote. “Many missiles have successfully been shot down over Kaniv, but within the last two weeks one of the cells of the hydroelectric plant was hit and destroyed by an incoming Russian missile.”

Carpenter said Russian forces reportedly shot 50 missiles on 18 critical facilities on Oct. 31 during Ukrainian’s morning rush hour across 10 regions in the country. The bombing also targeted Kharkiv’s Combined Heat-and-Power Plant and Prydniprovska Thermal Power Plant.

In Ukraine’s capitol city of Kyiv, these attacks “cut off power to 350,000 apartments and left 80% of the population without water, forcing people to wait in long lines to draw water from old stone wells,” according to Carpenter.

At the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Oct. 12, U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested the Russian Federation’s strikes on civilian infrastructure — like Kaniv’s hydroelectric power plant — violated international rules of war and rose to the level of war crimes.

“Russia has deliberately struck civilian infrastructure with the purpose of harming civilians,” Milley told NATO leaders in Brussels, according to Reuters. “They have targeted the elderly, the women, and the children of Ukraine.”

Approximately 4,000 internal Ukrainian refugees have coalesced in Kaniv, “who are either passing through to safer ground or staying in Kaniv because they have lost their homes,” said Kaeti Bailie, Sonoma’s chair of the Kaniv committee.

“As winter approaches the town is in great need of generators and large 20 person tents to house the refugees,” Bailie said.

Leontyev visited the hydroelectric plant days after the bombing. The director of the power plant called him later. The shock wave of the blast broke windows around the plant, and Leontyev was recruited to help in their repair.

Yet even in war — with shellings and scarcity and struggle — there are still moments to celebrate life’s simple pleasures for Leontyev. A very Sonoman pleasure at that.

“I drank my wine yesterday. Of course, it is still a little sour. But in general, this is a real Beaujolais Nouveau,” Leontyev said. “Thank you for your advice and support. I have one more question. When is your wine bottled?”

Contact Chase Hunter at chase.hunter@sonomanews.com and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.

How you can help Kaniv

The Sonoma Sister Cities Association created a fund for Kaniv residents to buy food, water, fuel and medical supplies. According to the fundraiser’s description, “100% of monies received will go directly to our sister city to help the Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion.”

To donate to the fundraiser, go to givebutter.com/SisterCities_Kaniv. Or you can write a check to Sonoma Sister Cities Association indicating "Ukraine" on the subject line and mail it to SSCA, PO Box 1975, Sonoma, CA 95476.

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