NATO support for Kyiv remains steadfast; U.S. to provide USD 53 mln for grid repairs

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Vladimir Putin had focused his “fire and ire” on Ukraine's civilian population and warned that Russia's recent strategy of targeting vital infrastructure would fail to divide Ukraine's supporters.

“Heat, water, electricity… these are President Putin's new targets. He's hitting them hard. This brutalisation of Ukraine's people is barbaric,” Blinken told a news conference in Bucharest following a two-day NATO summit.

Blinken accused Putin of trying to divide the Western coalition and to force it to abandon Ukraine by freezing and starving Ukrainians and driving up energy costs not across Europe but around the world.

“This strategy has not, and will not, work. We will continue to prove him wrong. That's what I heard loudly and clearly from every country here in Bucharest,” Blinken added.

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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 and a war crime.

The United States and Western allies have concentrated their attention on providing Ukraine with cash as well as relevant equipment to boost Kyiv's energy resilience. Russia's recent attacks have left millions of people in the dark and without heating amid sub-zero temperatures.

The United States on Tuesday announced USD 53 million to support the purchase of power grid equipment to Ukraine and get it delivered to the country urgently.

Ukraine's foreign minister told some NATO diplomats visiting Kyiv earlier in the day that transformers were the biggest element of the country's power infrastructure that needed to be restored.

Blinken said the main message out of this week's NATO summit was that the Western alliance's support for Ukraine will continue and that it was “clear-eyed” about the difficult winter ahead.

NATO offers support to Russia's neighbours

On Wednesday the NATO allies offered to help nearby Moldova, Georgia and Bosnia-Herzegovina - all under pressure from Russia - NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

“If there is one lesson from Ukraine it is that we need to support them now,” Stoltenberg told a news conference, while Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told Reuters: “The beast also wants to take control of the Western Balkans”.