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NATO to boost Ukraine aid, accuses Putin of using cold as “weapon of war“


NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday (November 29) said the alliance would not pull back in its support for Ukraine, calling on partners to pledge more winter aid for Kyiv as it braced itself for more cold and darkness due to Russian attacks on infrastructure.

NATO allies said on Tuesday they would ramp up aid for Ukraine during a very tough winter caused by Moscow’s targeting of its energy infrastructure, as the alliance’s head accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using the cold as “a weapon of war”.

Foreign ministers from the NATO military alliance are seeking ways at talks in the Romanian capital Bucharest to sustain Kyiv’s military and help keep civilians safe amid the constant blackouts and heating shortages.

“President Putin is trying to use winter as a weapon of war,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at the start of a two-day gathering.

Echoing that sentiment, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly accused Putin of targeting civilian and energy infrastructure “to try and freeze the Ukrainians in submission”.

Russia acknowledges attacking Ukrainian infrastructure but denies deliberately seeking to harm civilians.

The ministers will focus on increasing assistance such as air defence systems and ammunition to Ukraine.

They will also discuss non-lethal aid including fuel, medical supplies, winter equipment and drone jammers, delivered through a NATO assistance package that allies can contribute to.

“I hope we will agree on a quite significant package of non-lethal help,” Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned his fellow citizens of new Russian attacks this week that could be as bad as last week’s, the worst yet, which left millions of people with no heat, water or power.

Germany, which holds the presidency of the Group of Seven rich nations, scheduled a meeting of the G7 with some partners on the sidelines of the NATO talks as it seeks ways to speed up the reconstruction of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

“I think we all have seen these pictures taken from satellites where you see Europe in light and then you see Ukraine dark… so there is a huge task to rebuild all of this,” Stoltenberg said.

Washington is working with U.S. firms and European nations to locate equipment that can restore high-voltage transmission stations damaged by Russian missile strikes, a senior U.S. State Department official told reporters in Bucharest.

The official did not specify what form the assistance would take or how much it would be worth. Other nations have already sent power generators to try to stabilise the electricity grid.

NATO is pushing arms manufacturers to accelerate production but a European diplomat said there were increasing problems with supply capacity.

The Czech minister Lipavsky said the 30 NATO allies would discuss how to maintain short-term production and supply levels.

Highlighting the view from Baltic states, which have been at the forefront of supporting Kyiv, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis urged the alliance to press ahead with deliveries of tanks, saying NATO had plenty of them to spare.

“My message to fellow foreign ministers at today’s NATO meeting is simple: Keep calm and give tanks,” he said on Twitter, showing an image of a Ukrainian flag with a tank in the middle.

The ministers will be joined by Finland and Sweden, as they look to secure full NATO membership pending ratification of their bid by Turkey and Hungary.

Ministers will also discuss Ukraine’s application for NATO membership but are likely only to confirm the alliance’s open-door policy while actual membership remains a remote prospect. Russia is fiercely opposed to Ukraine joining NATO.

“We stated that Ukraine will become a member, I expect allies to reiterate that position,” Stoltenberg said.

“However, the main focus now is on supporting Ukraine. We are in the midst of a war and therefore we should do nothing that can undermine the unity of allies to provide military, humanitarian, financial support to Ukraine.”

In 2008, a NATO summit in Bucharest agreed that Ukraine would eventually become a member of the alliance but stopped short of taking any concrete steps.

In particular, Germany and France, warning against provoking Russia, rejected a U.S. proposal that would have seen Ukraine gaining a membership action plan.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg poses with foreign ministers of NATO countries during the family photo at their meeting in Bucharest, Romania November 29, 2022. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

A view shows the city without electricity after critical civil infrastructure was hit by Russian missile attacks, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine November 23, 2022. REUTERS/Vladyslav Sodel/File Photo

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a news conference at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium November 16, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

Local residents stand in line to fill up bottles with fresh drinking water after critical civil infrastructure was hit by Russian missile attacks in Kyiv, Ukraine November 24, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo