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NATO Pledges More Aid to Kyiv as Air Raid Sirens Blare Again Across Ukraine

Reuters

Last Updated: November 29, 2022, 23:59 IST

Kyiv

Russia called off nuclear talks with the United States this week at the last minute.(Representational Pic/Shutterstock)

Russia called off nuclear talks with the United States this week at the last minute.(Representational Pic/Shutterstock)

Pledging continued support for Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin was "trying to use winter as a weapon of war" as Moscow's forces lose on the battlefield

The United States and NATO allies on Tuesday promised more arms for Kyiv and equipment to help restore Ukrainian power and heat knocked out by Russian missile and drone strikes, as air raid sirens blared across Ukraine for the first time this week.

Ukrainians fled the streets for bomb shelters, although the all-clear later sounded across the country apart from the front-line eastern province of Luhansk.

Foreign ministers from the NATO alliance, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, began a two-day meeting in Bucharest, seeking ways both to keep Ukrainians safe and warm and to sustain Kyiv’s military through a coming winter campaign.

“We need air defence, IRIS, Hawks, Patriots, and we need transformers (for our energy needs)," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters on the sidelines of the NATO meeting, enumerating various Western air defence systems.

“If we have transformers and generators, we can restore our energy needs. If we have air defence systems, we can protect from the next Russian missile strikes. In a nutshell: Patriots and transformers are what Ukraine needs the most."

Pledging continued support for Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “trying to use winter as a weapon of war" as Moscow’s forces lose on the battlefield.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly accused Putin of trying to “freeze the Ukrainians into submission".

In a statement, NATO ministers condemned Russia’s “persistent and unconscionable attacks on Ukrainian civilian and energy infrastructure" and confirmed a 2008 decision that Ukraine will eventually join the alliance. But it announced no concrete steps or timetable that would bring it closer to NATO.

U.S. and European officials said ministers would focus on non-lethal aid such as fuel, medical supplies and winter equipment as well as on military assistance. The United States said it would provide $53 million to buy power grid equipment.

The foreign minister of Lithuania, Gabrielius Landsbergis, urged his NATO colleagues to take the political decision to send modern battle tanks to Ukraine to give them a military edge against Russian forces. Western powers have been reluctant to go down that road for fear of stoking direct conflict with Russia.

ACCUMULATING DAMAGE

Russia has been carrying out huge attacks on Ukraine’s electricity transmission and heating infrastructure roughly weekly since October, in what Kyiv and its allies say is a deliberate campaign to harm civilians, a war crime.

Moscow says hurting civilians is not its aim but that their suffering will end only if Kyiv accepts its demands, which it did not spell out. Although Kyiv says it shoots down most of the incoming missiles, the damage has been accumulating and the impact growing more severe with each strike.

The worst attack so far was on Nov. 23, leaving millions of Ukrainians in cold and darkness. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Ukrainians at the start of this week to expect another soon that would be at least as damaging.

There are no political talks to end the war. Moscow has annexed Ukrainian territory which it says it will never relinquish; Ukraine says it will fight until it recovers all occupied land.

Kyiv said it wants weapons to help it end the war – by winning it.

“No eloquent speech will say more than concrete action. ‘Patriot’, ‘F-16’, or ‘Leopard’ for Ukraine," tweeted presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, referring to U.S. anti-aircraft missiles and fighter jets, and German tanks.

“It’s not only about air defence or a tank, but also an important support act for people preparing to survive their harshest winter and paying the highest price for Europe’s security," he wrote.

NUCLEAR TALKS CANCELLED

Russia called off nuclear talks with the United States this week at the last minute. Moscow said it had “no choice" but to cancel the talks, aimed at resuming inspections under an arms control treaty, because Washington refused to address its wider concerns about strategic stability.

Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as warning Washington of unspecified risks because of its support for Kyiv against what Russia calls a “special military operation" to disarm its neighbour.

“We are sending signals to the Americans that their line of escalation and ever deeper involvement in this conflict is fraught with dire consequences. The risks are growing," Ryabkov was quoted as saying.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later accused the United States of toxic anti-Russian behaviour and of trying to manipulate the New START nuclear treaty to its advantage, though she said Moscow remained committed to it.

In Kyiv, snow fell and temperatures were hovering around freezing as millions in and around the capital struggled to heat their homes. After a week of trying to restore electricity from the last attacks, national grid operator Ukrenergo said the system was still producing a shortfall of 30% of needed power.

Along front lines in eastern Ukraine, the onset of winter is ushering in a new phase of the conflict with intense trench warfare along heavily fortified positions, posing new challenges for both sides after several months of Russian retreats.

With Russian forces having pulled back in the northeast and withdrawn across the Dnipro River in the south, the front line on land is only around half the length it was a few months ago. That will make it harder for Ukrainian forces to find weakly defended stretches to attempt new breakthroughs.

Both sides will have to keep troops supplied and healthy in cold, wet trenches for the first long winter of the war, a bigger challenge for the Russians as an invading force with longer and more vulnerable supply lines.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)
first published:November 29, 2022, 23:59 IST
last updated:November 29, 2022, 23:59 IST
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