Ukraine urged Nato members on Tuesday to speed up arms supplies and help restore its shattered power grid, as Western allies stepped up support to winter aid Kyiv after Russia’s attacks. Sworn on
Moscow has unleashed waves of attacks against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as its troops have been pushed back into the land, plunging millions into darkness.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for “fast, fast, fast” supplies of weapons, especially advanced air defense systems, as he attended a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers in the Romanian capital Bucharest.
“When we have transformers and generators, we can restore our system, our energy grid, and provide people with decent living conditions,” Kuleba said.
“When we have an air defense system, we will be able to protect this infrastructure from the next Russian missile attacks.”
“In short, Patriots and Transformers are what Ukraine needs most”, he said, referring to the US-made Patriot missile defense system.
The appeal came as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using winter as a “weapon of war” against Ukraine to target infrastructure.
Stoltenberg said NATO allies had promised Ukraine more support to fix its infrastructure and would continue to send weapons and air defense to help it better defend itself.
He said “discussions are on” over the supply of the Patriot systems, which Washington and others have so far refused to give to Kyiv.
Stoltenberg said, “NATO is not a party to the war. But we will continue to support Ukraine. As long as it takes, we will not back down.”
He said he expected Russia to launch more attacks on Ukraine’s grid as the Kremlin faces defeat on the ground and warned that Europe should “prepare for more refugees”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced a $53 million package “to support the acquisition of critical power grid equipment” by Kyiv.
A senior US official said the aid would not be final and pointed out that the Biden administration had budgeted $1.1 billion for energy spending in Ukraine and neighboring Moldova.
– ‘Keep Calm, Tank Do’ –
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said, “This targeting of civilian infrastructure of energy infrastructure is clearly designed to try and coerce the Ukrainian people.”
“I don’t think it will be successful.”
The allies have given Ukraine billions of dollars in arms, but Kyiv is demanding more air defences, tanks and long-range missiles to push back the Kremlin’s forces.
But there is growing concern that weapons stockpiles in some NATO countries are being depleted as stockpiles are diverted to Ukraine.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that his request to fellow NATO ministers was simple: “Keep calm and give the tanks”.
Germany, which is currently chairing the G7, called a meeting on the sidelines of the NATO gathering to discuss the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Bierbock said participants looked ahead to an international conference in Paris on 13 December to “better understand and prioritize the most urgent needs”.
Separately, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and said Germany would send 350 generators and provide financial assistance to repair energy infrastructure worth 56 million euros ($57 million).
– ‘the door is open’ –
NATO said the meeting in Bucharest demonstrated its unity on continuing to support Ukraine as Moscow’s war against its neighbor drags into its tenth month.
However, the coalition made no progress on Ukraine’s request to join, despite reiterating that it remained committed to its promise made nearly 14 years earlier that Kyiv would one day become a member.
Stoltenberg insisted that “the door is open” for new members but said the focus was now on aiding Ukraine’s fight with Moscow.
“We are discussing how to further strengthen our partnership with Ukraine and help them move towards NATO membership,” he said.
NATO has strengthened its eastern flank in the face of Russia’s war by sending more troops and equipment to neighboring countries such as Ukraine and Romania.
Non-NATO Moldova, which has also seen blackouts due to attacks on neighboring Ukraine, will take part in coalition talks with Bosnia and Georgia on Wednesday.
In addition to the war in Ukraine, ministers will take stock of progress on the accession of NATO candidates Finland and Sweden, which is already ratified by 28 of the 30 member states but which awaits the green light from Hungary and Turkey.
The foreign ministers of Finland, Sweden and Turkey met on the sidelines of the meeting, but Ankara did not indicate that any further steps had been taken.