NATO says Moscow is using winter as a ‘weapon of war’
Ukraine asks NATO allies for more air defenses and generators
Zelenskiy says Russia plans to move south
Russian official says attacks in Ukraine cause power outages
By Pavel Polityuk
KYIV, Nov 30 (Reuters) – NATO allies have pledged more weapons for Kyiv and equipment to help restore Ukrainian electricity and heat knocked out by Russian strikes, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said forces from Moscow were trying to advance in several areas.
Ukrainians fled to bomb shelters on Tuesday after air raid warning sirens, although the green light later sounded across the country. In the eastern region of Donetsk, Russian forces pounded Ukrainian targets with artillery, mortar and tank fire.
Zelenskiy said the Russian military was also attacking Luhansk in the east and Kharkiv in the northeast, the latter an area recaptured by Ukraine in September.
“The situation at the front is difficult,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address. “Despite extremely heavy losses, the occupiers are still trying to advance” in Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkiv. And “they’re planning something down south,” he said.
Ukraine regained control of Kherson in the south this month after Russian forces withdrew. Reuters could not independently verify reports from the battlefield.
NATO foreign ministers, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, began a two-day meeting in Bucharest on Tuesday, discussing ways to both keep Ukrainians safe and warm and support the army of Kyiv during an upcoming winter campaign.
“We need air defense, IRIS, Hawks, Patriots, and we need transformers (for our energy needs),” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting. NATO meeting, listing various Western air defense systems.
“In a nutshell: Patriots and Transformers are what Ukraine needs most.”
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
NATO opposed supplying Ukraine with Patriot missile defense systems and denounced the Atlantic Alliance as a ‘criminal entity’ for supplying weapons to what it called ‘Ukrainian fanatics’ .
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “trying to use winter as a weapon of war” as Moscow’s forces lost ground on the battlefield.
US and EU officials said ministers would focus their discussions on non-lethal aid like fuel, medical supplies and winter gear, as well as military assistance. Washington said it would provide $53 million to purchase power grid equipment.
US President Joe Biden has said providing more military aid to Ukraine is a priority, but Republicans, who take control of the House of Representatives of Congress in January, have spoken of suspending funding, which has exceeded $18 billion.
Russia has carried out massive attacks on Ukraine’s electricity transmission and heating infrastructure roughly every week since October, in what Kyiv and its allies view as a deliberate campaign to harm civilians, a war crime.
In Kyiv, snow fell and temperatures hovered around freezing as millions of people in and around the capital struggled to heat their homes. A power company official said on Facebook that 985,500 customers in Kyiv were without power, and another electricity supplier said the city would suffer emergency power cuts on Wednesday.
In a brief post on Telegram, Kherson region governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said on Tuesday that electricity has been restored to half of the city of Kherson.
Ukrainian forces struck a power plant in Russia’s Kursk region on Tuesday, causing power outages, Roman Starovoyt, the region’s governor, said on the Telegram messaging app.
Moscow says hurting civilians is not its goal but that their suffering will only end if Kyiv agrees to its demands, which it has not specified. Although Kyiv claims to have shot down most of the incoming missiles, the damage accumulated and the impact worsened with each strike.
A senior US military official said on Tuesday that Russia was firing unarmed cruise missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads at targets in Ukraine to try to deplete Kyiv’s air defense stockpiles.
The worst barrage to date took place on November 23, leaving millions of Ukrainians cold and dark. Zelenskiy told Ukrainians earlier this week to expect another one 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 abandon; Ukraine says it will fight until it recovers all occupied land.
Kyiv said he wanted weapons to help him end the war – by winning it.
(Reporting by Reuters offices; Writing by Cynthia Osterman; Editing by Chris Reese)