Foreign ministers from seven Nordic and Baltic countries pledged on Monday to provide more military, economic and humanitarian aid to help Ukraine resist Russian attacks not only on the battlefield but against civilian targets, which represent most of the Kremlin’s goals.
With winter approaching and temperatures already dropping below zero in many parts of the country, Ukraine is facing an energy crisis after weeks of Russia destroying its power facilities with airstrikes. Around 40% of Ukraine’s energy sector has been damaged or destroyed.
“We have agreements on further cooperation in the fields of defense and energy, in the projects for the reconstruction of our state and in the area of sanctions,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said after meeting in Kyiv the Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Icelandic ministers.
Sweden said it provided a nearly $280 million package of air defense systems, ammunition, all-terrain vehicles and personal winter gear for the troops. Finland has pledged to take in more Ukrainian refugees. In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the United States was working with partners and allies to provide energy and water replacement equipment.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for more air defenses “to break this vicious cycle” where Russia destroys infrastructure and Ukraine rebuilds it.
Of the more than 16,000 missiles Russia fired at Ukraine during the war, 97% were aimed at civilian targets, Ukraine’s defense minister said. Oleksii Reznikov tweeted. “We are fighting against a terrorist state,” Reznikov said. “Ukraine will prevail and bring war criminals to justice.”
►Zelenskyy acknowledged that the situation at the front remains “very difficult”, especially in Donetsk province, part of the eastern Donbass region that Russia claims to annex. Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said residents were “living in catastrophic conditions without electricity or heating”.
►Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Russian forces will leave the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Petro Kotin, head of Ukrainian nuclear power operator Energoatom, said last week that the company had seen signs that Russia was preparing to leave the ruined plant.
►After withdrawing from the southern city of Kherson this month, Russian troops continued to shell it from across the Dnieper. The UK Ministry of Defense reported a record 54 strikes on Sunday.
►Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, a longtime ally of Kremlin-friendly President Alexander Lukashenko, died suddenly this weekend at the age of 64. The ministry announced his death but did not disclose a cause.
RUSSIA MAY PREPARE TO ABANDON A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT:Russian says troops need more documents and equipment: updates from Ukraine
Putin uses ‘winter as a weapon’
Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to use frost, snow and ice to his advantage on the battlefield and against Ukrainian civilians facing a winter of unreliable energy for warmth amid Russian bombardment relentless,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday.
This is why NATO allies are stepping up their support for Ukraine, Stoltenberg said on the eve of the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Bucharest, Romania.
“President Putin is now trying to use winter as a weapon of war against Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said. “It’s horrible, and we have to be prepared for further attacks.”
The seven foreign ministers who traveled to Kyiv on Monday pledged to send generators, cold weather clothing and food to help Ukrainians, who are bracing for teenage temperatures next week.
Zelenskyy warned that Russian troops were preparing new strikes.
“As long as they have missiles, they won’t stop, unfortunately,” Zelenskyy warned. “The week ahead may be as difficult as the one that has passed.”
Some of Kyiv’s 3 million residents may need to be evacuated to locations where essential services would be less subject to closures caused by Russia’s missile attacks are intensifying, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Monday. Russia has pounded energy facilities around Kyiv with a barrage of missile and drone strikes, causing power outages and disruptions to the city’s water supply. Klitschko said a “worst-case scenario” cannot be ruled out and preferred the term “displacement” as opposed to evacuation.
“There won’t be a complete evacuation. Maybe a partial evacuation,” Klitschko told Ukrainian media RBC. “It is a temporary relocation of certain categories of people to the suburbs, where there may be services.”
Ukraine brings back service disruptions, citing demand due to cold weather
Ukrainian public grid operator Ukrenergo resumed emergency blackouts across the country on Monday, citing the need to balance the power system and mitigate grid emergencies. The company said in a statement that consumption continues to increase due to deteriorating weather conditions. The energy deficit was 27%. The company described the damage to its system from the Russian rocket attacks as “massive”, but added that repairs were continuing around the clock.
“Once the causes of the emergency outages are resolved, the blocks will resume work, reducing power shortages and consumer limitations,” the company said.
The United States is debating whether to supply Ukraine with small precision bombs with a range of nearly 100 miles that could strike beyond Russian lines, Reuters reported on Monday.
Ukraine has had great success destroying Russian weapons depots and disrupting their supply lines with Pentagon-provided HIMARS launchers, whose rockets can travel up to 45-50 miles.
The new weapon under consideration, based on a Boeing proposal, is known as the ground-launched small diameter bomb. Its 94-mile range could allow Ukraine to continue making inroads in its counteroffensive by hitting more distant Russian targets, the report said. Delivery is scheduled for early spring.
Ukraine’s first lady: Russians use rape as ‘another weapon’ in wartime
Russian troops have “systematically and openly” committed rape and other acts of sexual violence against Ukrainian women as part of Moscow’s war effort, Ukraine’s first lady said Monday in London.
Speaking at an international conference on preventing sexual violence in conflict, Olensa Zelenska said Russia must be held accountable for sexual assaults so brazen that its soldiers were heard on phone recordings talking openly about it with relatives at home.
“Sexual violence is the most cruel and animalistic way to prove someone’s mastery,” Zelenska said. “It’s another weapon in (Russia’s) arsenal in this war.”
Zelenska is expected to address UK lawmakers on Tuesday as part of her visit to the UK.
Contributor: The Associated Press