The foreign ministers of seven Scandinavian and Baltic states pledged on Monday to increase military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine to help it withstand Russian attacks not only on the battlefield but also against civilians, which constitute many of the Kremlin’s targets.
As winter approaches and temperatures drop below freezing in many parts of the country, Ukraine is facing an energy crisis after weeks of airstrikes on power facilities by Russia. About 40% of Ukraine’s energy sector is damaged or destroyed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said after meeting with the ministers of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Estonia in Kyiv, “We have an agreement on further cooperation in defense, energy sector, reconstruction projects of our country and sanctions.” Latvia, Lithuania, Iceland.
Sweden says it has provided almost $280 million in packages for the troops, including air defense systems, ammunition, all kinds of vehicles and personal winter gear. Finland has promised to accept more Ukrainian refugees. In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the United States is working with partners and allies to provide energy and water replacement equipment.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for additional air defense forces “to stop this vicious cycle” of Russia destroying its infrastructure and rebuilding Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister said that 97 percent of the more than 16,000 missiles fired by Russia at Ukraine in the war were aimed at civilian targets. Alexey Reznikov tweeted. “We are fighting against a terrorist state,” Reznikov said, adding that “Ukraine will win and bring war criminals to justice.”
►Zelensky acknowledged that the situation on the frontline remains “very difficult”, especially in Donetsk region, part of eastern Donbass, which is claimed by Russia. “Residents are living in catastrophic conditions without electricity or heating,” Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said.
►Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Russian armed forces would withdraw from the occupied Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. Petro Kotin, the head of Ukraine’s state nuclear operator Energoatom, said last week that the company had seen signs that Russia was preparing to abandon the damaged plant.
►After Russian troops withdrew from the southern city of Kherson this month, it continues to be bombarded from across the Dnieper River. Britain’s Ministry of Defense reported 54 strikes on Sunday.
►Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, a longtime ally of Kremlin-friendly President Alexander Lukashenko, died suddenly at the age of 64 last weekend. The ministry announced his death but did not disclose the cause.
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Putin is using winter as a weapon
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to use frost, snow and ice to warm Ukrainian civilians, who have faced a winter of power uncertainty on the battlefield and incessant Russian bombing.
Because of this, NATO allies are intensifying their support for Ukraine, Stoltenberg said on the eve of the meeting of foreign ministers of NATO member states in Bucharest, the capital of Romania.
“President Putin is now trying to use winter as a weapon of war against Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said. “This is scary, we need to be prepared for more attacks.”
Seven foreign ministers visiting Kiev on Monday pledged to send generators, cold-weather clothing and food next week to help young Ukrainians bracing for the heat.
Zelensky warned that Russian troops were preparing for a new strike.
“Unfortunately, they will not stop as long as they have missiles,” Zelensky warned. “Next week will be as tough as last week.”
Some of Kyiv’s 3 million residents may need to be evacuated, so basic services are not vulnerable to disruption. Russia’s missile attacks are intensifying, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Monday. Russia hit energy facilities near Kiev with missiles and drones, causing power outages and the city’s water supply. Klitschko said the “worst case scenario” could not be ruled out, preferring the term “eviction” instead of eviction.
“There will be no complete evacuation. Maybe partial,” Klitschko told Ukrainian news agency RBC. “It’s a temporary relocation of a certain class of people to the suburbs, where there may be services.”
Ukraine has suspended traffic due to demand due to cold weather
Ukraine’s state grid operator Ukrenergo restored emergency blackouts across the country on Monday, citing the need to balance the power system and mitigate grid outages. The company said in a statement that consumption continues to increase due to worsening weather conditions. Energy loss was 27%. The company described the damage to its systems from the Russian missile attack as “extensive” but added that repairs were continuing around the clock.
“Once the cause of the emergency outage is removed, the blocks will resume operation, reducing power shortages and customer restrictions,” the company said.
The U.S. is considering giving Ukraine a small precision-guided munition that has a range of 100 miles and can strike beyond Russian lines. This was reported by Reuters on Monday.
Ukraine has had considerable success in destroying Russian weapons depots and cutting their supply lines 45-50 miles away with Pentagon-supplied HIMARS missile launchers.
The new weapon, based on Boeing’s proposal, is called a small-diameter ground-launched bomb. Its 94-mile range would allow Ukraine to continue counterattacks by striking distant Russian targets, the report said. Delivery is scheduled for early spring.
Ukraine’s first lady: Russians are using rape as “another weapon” in the war
Ukraine’s first lady said in London on Monday that Russian forces are “systematically and openly” committing rape and other acts of sexual violence against Ukrainian women as part of Moscow’s war effort.
Speaking at an international conference on preventing sexual violence in conflict, Olensa Zelenska was heard on a phone recording of her soldiers speaking openly to relatives back home as she said Russia should be held accountable for sexual violence.
“Sexual violence is the cruelest, most beastly way to assert dominance over someone,” Zelenska said. “This is another weapon in (Russia’s) arsenal in this war.”
Zelenska is expected to address British lawmakers on Tuesday as part of her visit to the UK.
Contributor: Associated Press