Ukrainians struggle with fuel thirst 2

Ukrainians struggle with fuel thirst 2

As the conflict in Ukraine enters its third month, fuel shortages are spreading in the country, making people's lives more difficult.

Images of long lines at gas stations are increasingly common throughout Ukraine, from large cities to small villages.

In a context where supplies become scarce and the government issues regulations on the maximum amount of gasoline a person is allowed to buy, patience is the only thing that can help Ukrainian drivers fill their gas tanks.

Drivers line up to fill up with gas at a service station in the city of Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine.

Irina Yusuchuk, 35, waited in line for two hours to fill up her Mercedes at a gas station near her work on the outskirts of Lviv.

Fuel shortages are getting worse in Ukraine, as fighting has largely shifted to the Donbass region in the east and life is starting to return to normal in the central and western parts of the country.

Russian air strikes on several fuel depots and the only operating refinery in the central city of Kremenchuk have exacerbated the inefficiency and vulnerability of Ukraine’s oil and gas industry.

`Ukraine is more dependent on imported petroleum products than gas,` said Edward C. Chow, an energy security expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

After declaring independence in 1991, Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union about six fully operational oil refineries.

He estimates that Ukraine can only filter about 30% of the petroleum used for domestic needs and must import the rest.

With the Sea of Azov blocked and the port of Odessa under constant bombardment, Ukraine’s only option now is to transport gasoline by road and build the necessary infrastructure along those fuel transportation routes.

`I think Ukraine is facing a lot of difficulties with logistics,` Chow said.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Economy said that Russian air strikes were the cause of the gasoline shortage, but admitted that people’s panic buying and hoarding of fuel also contributed to the scarcity.

`Of course, we understand that Ukrainians are trying to fill their fuel tanks because they feel that this temporary shortage is increasing and that really creates great pressure,` said Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Svyrydenko.

At a gas station on the outskirts of Lviv, Grigoriy, a 56-year-old truck driver, inched his tractor to the pump, after staff announced that supplies were running low.

Grigoriy said he witnessed a Russian attack on a fuel depot that contributed to a gasoline shortage in early March in the city of Zhytomyr.

Now, every time he leaves a gas station, Grigoriy looks for information about the next station or searches for fuel cards issued by gas companies, allowing customers to buy fuel in advance at a price.

Since Russia launched its military campaign in Ukraine, these cards have been used to limit the amount of fuel the owner can buy at any gas station each day.

The WOG gasoline business chain allows customers using fuel cards to buy 40 liters of gasoline per day, while normal app users can only buy a maximum of 10 liters.

`I’ve been driving trucks since I was 18 years old, what else could I do?` he said.

In the Donbass region, Ivan, 48 years old, said his car once nearly ran out of gas because of Russian shelling, forcing him to take a detour 100 kilometers further.

`We often have to spend the night in the car,` he said.

Taras Myts, a 26-year-old taxi driver in Lviv, said he had to take two days off because he ran out of gas.

Myts believes the situation could get even worse.

Although Russian cruise missiles last week destroyed part of the electricity and water infrastructure, Lviv authorities still turned on the fountain opposite the city’s opera house, cafes became busier, and people took advantage of the weather.

Driver Myts is happy that a sense of normalcy has returned to Lviv, although a cautious and cautious mentality still remains.

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