KYIV, Ukraine — For the second time in a week, Marina had to wait more than three hours in the car with her newborn baby to buy gas.
Sitting in a line that stretched as far as the eye could see on the side of a highway, Marina, who spoke on condition that she omit her last name, said she was waiting to fill another 20-litre canister with fuel to add to his stock at home. The amount – just over 5 gallons – was the maximum allowed at the gas station.
She said she wanted to make sure she, her husband and their two children would have enough fuel to get to the border safely if Russian forces ever returned to the area.
“Who knows how events will unfold,” she said. “In case of danger, the four of us will get in the car and leave.”
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its third month, gas shortages are beginning to appear across the country. Cities like Kyiv and Lviv are going through a particularly difficult time as more and more people return to their homes after Russia’s eastward withdrawal last month.
In recent days, shortages have deepened as wartime uncertainty has sparked panic buying, and many Ukrainians are now hoarding jerry cans of petrol at home.
“I will have to evacuate if something happens,” said Olexandr Eremenko, 44, explaining why he waited four hours early Friday morning to buy 20 liters of gasoline. It would not be enough to bring him back to the border if the Russians were to return. “I’ll be queuing again.”
Some gas stations were looted and burned by the Russians during their occupation of the area in March. Others are running out of fuel and some have started limiting the amount of fuel each driver can buy.
Vladimir Rivega, 21, said he arrived at a Kyiv station at 6 a.m. Thursday morning to put as much gasoline in his empty tank as station attendants allowed. It was approaching the start of the line at 5 p.m. when the station ran out of fuel.
At 12 p.m. Friday, he was still waiting for gas delivery. The attendants at the gas station told him it would only be a few more hours.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “But I understand the situation; it’s the war. If you have to wait, you have to wait. He hoped his perseverance might convince the gas station attendants to give him a full tank.
Before the war, Ukraine’s energy industry suffered from corruption, leaving all oil refineries bankrupt except for one in the central city of Kremenchuk, about 220 miles southeast of kyiv.
This has forced the country to be heavily dependent on imported oil.
Russian forces targeted the Kremenchuk refinery, as well as oil storage facilities, and cut off Ukraine’s access to Black Sea ports.
As a result, the Ukrainian government rushed to find other ways to get fuel into the country, setting up new systems to deliver fuel overland via trucks.
Ukrainian officials have acknowledged that the gas shortage is gripping the country.
In a video address in late April, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy said long queues and rising prices at gas stations “are seen in many parts of our country.”
“Occupiers are deliberately destroying fuel production, supply and storage infrastructure,” he said. “Russia has also blocked our ports, so there are no immediate solutions to fill the gap.”
Zelenskyy promised to eradicate fuel shortages within two weeks. On Friday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said his country had agreed to import petroleum products from the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and Azerbaijan.
A border checkpoint was being prepared for the import, Shmyhal said in a statement posted on the Ukrainian government’s website. He did not say when the oil would start arriving or where the border crossing would be.
So right now the problem is only getting worse.
The fuel situation raises concerns about how Ukraine will support essential industries such as agriculture and whether this will impact military logistics and supply chains. Government officials have encouraged civilians to avoid driving their personal vehicles and to use public transportation when possible.
Ruslan Irkis, 38, who operates a small farm outside Kyiv, said he needed fuel to run his farm and to deliver his produce to nearby shops.
He and his wife had booked all day to drive around Kyiv collecting 20-litre cans of petrol at a time. He said he couldn’t go home until they had at least 100 liters.
“We have to make a living, it’s the only way.”
Oksana Moiseenko, 42, said she had followed government guidelines to take public transport since returning to Kyiv in mid-April.
But the thought of the Russians returning terrified her. She waited more than three hours on Friday morning to buy just 20 liters of fuel. She planned to keep coming back to the station until she had enough gas to make the approximately 8-hour journey to the border.
“I am of course worried,” she said of the possibility of being forced out of Kyiv again. “How not to worry? »