Ukraine's energy consumption hit a record high on Wednesday, raising tensions on the fragile energy sector as nearly 500 settlements faced power outages due to Russian shelling, airstrikes and bad weather, officials said.

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Ukraine, an electricity exporter before Russia's February 2022 invasion, was forced to turn to emergency imports of electricity from neighboring Romania and Poland this week to meet demands, Ukraine's power grid operator Ukrenergo said.

The energy system is entering a second military winter in a much more shaky state after months of Russian missile and drone attacks that hit critical infrastructure last winter.

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These blows plunged cities into darkness and forced people to stay for long periods without water or heating at rather low temperatures. Although the energy system is weakened, Ukrainians hope that better air defenses provided by the West will help them prevail.

Ukrenergo urged residents to save electricity in the face of ongoing Russian attacks almost two years after the start of Moscow's invasion, in which it occupied large territories in the east and south of the country, accounting for about a fifth of Ukraine's territory.

This morning, Ukrenergo again recorded a high level of consumption, which is almost equal to yesterday's record, the operator said in a statement, adding that consumption has reached its highest levels so far this heating season.

The government in Kiev said in a statement that 492 settlements across Ukraine were left without electricity due to bad weather, shelling, strikes and combat.

Russia continues to hit the energy system this winter, sending dozens of drones every night to strike power generation facilities and distribution networks across the country.

Today, the Ministry of Energy announced that a total of three power units are not operating at thermal power plants in one of the frontline areas, which has affected the energy system. The ministry added that during the day the facility came under fire again, with new equipment failures recorded.

Thick clouds over the country hinder the functioning of solar power plants, BTA reported.

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