Nato plans to increase shipments of power generators, clothing and other non-lethal items to Ukraine to help it withstand Russia’s onslaught on its power and water networks, the alliance’s chief said.
Jens Stoltenberg said he would use a meeting of its members’ foreign ministers in Bucharest next week to secure additional pledges. The demand for more support to patch up Ukraine’s power, heating and water supplies comes as Russian missile strikes this week left a majority of the country in darkness.
“I expect foreign ministers will also agree to step up non-lethal support,” Stoltenberg said on Friday. “Nato has been delivering fuel, medical supplies, winter equipment . . . and at our meeting in Bucharest, I will call for more.”
The Bucharest meeting comes ahead of a donor conference hosted by French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris on December 13 focused on humanitarian help, and efforts by the EU to transport power grid equipment to the war-torn country.
Moscow’s war against Ukraine has pivoted in recent weeks to concentrate on a bombing campaign aimed at civilian infrastructure, in an attempt to force Kyiv to make concessions as winter takes hold.
“Waves of deliberate missile attacks on cities and civilian infrastructure, depriving Ukrainians of heat, light, and food,” Stoltenberg added. “This is a horrific start to the winter for Ukraine.”
On Wednesday, Russia launched 70 missiles against infrastructure targets across Ukraine, leaving about 80 per cent of the country in the dark and without water.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the Financial Times on Thursday that Kyiv would not be bowed by the attacks, declaring: “This is a war about strength, about resilience, it is about who stands stronger.”
Humanitarian support has in recent weeks become the primary area of concern for Nato capitals after a surge in military supplies this autumn helped Ukraine’s armed forces recapture large areas of the country’s east and south that Russia had occupied after its February invasion.
James Cleverly, UK foreign secretary, visited Ukraine on Thursday and pledged an additional £3mn for civilian infrastructure.
“As winter sets in, Russia is continuing to try and break Ukrainian resolve through its brutal attacks on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure. Russia will fail,” said Cleverly, who will attend the Bucharest meeting.
But other countries have cautioned against at the same time easing up on military supplies.
Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister, said that while humanitarian supplies were important, allies should not be distracted from providing what Ukraine needs most.
“The baseline is still the same: heavy weaponry,” he said before Stoltenberg’s comments. “What is happening to civilians is horrible, it’s really terrorism.”
“Yes, we should provide generators and clothing. But that should not be instead of weapons, because that is the only way you win the war, and they need to win the war,” he added.
Stoltenberg also said that allies would discuss sending more equipment to enable Ukraine to jam drone operations, in response to Russia’s increasing use of the unmanned airborne devices to hit civilian targets, including kamikaze weapons supplied by Iran.
Additional reporting by Christopher Miller in Kyiv, Richard Milne in Vilnius and Leila Abboud in Paris