The United States said on Wednesday that Russia’s weeks-long campaign targeting attacks on Ukraine’s vital heating, electricity and water infrastructure would not diminish the West’s resolve to support Kyiv in its nine-month fight against Moscow’s invasion.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a news conference after a two-day NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, that Russian President Vladimir Putin had focused his “fire and fury” on the Ukrainian civilian population as the brutally cold winter months set in.
“Heat, water, electricity – these are President Putin’s new goals. He is hitting them hard. This brutalization of the people of Ukraine is barbaric,” Blinken said.
The top US diplomat accused Putin of trying to split the Western coalition backing Ukraine as world energy prices rise while Ukrainians face routine, widespread power outages.
“This strategy has not, and will not, work,” Blinken said. “We will continue to prove him wrong. That’s what I heard loud and clear from all countries here in Bucharest.’
At the same time, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for a special court to prosecute Russian crimes against Ukraine.
Von der Leyen proposed a United Nations-backed court “to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crimes of aggression.”
She also said that Russia and Russian oligarchs must pay for the costs of rebuilding Ukraine from the damage done by Russian forces since they invaded Ukraine in February.
“Russia’s terrible crimes will not go unpunished,” von der Leyen said in Bucharest as NATO foreign ministers discussed continued support for Ukraine.
Members of a forensic team carry a plastic bag with a body inside as they work in an excavation of a mass grave in Lyman, Ukraine, October 11, 2022.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that Ukraine would one day join the Western military alliance in direct defiance of Putin.
“NATO’s door is open,” Stoltenberg said, renewing a commitment to Ukraine’s membership first made in 2008 but stalled since then. He noted that North Macedonia and Montenegro recently joined the West’s main post-World War II military alliance, and that Sweden and Finland will soon as well.
“Russia has no veto” against countries joining, said Stoltenberg, Norway’s former prime minister. “We stand by it also in terms of membership for Ukraine.”
The former Norwegian prime minister added: ‘President Putin cannot deny sovereign nations to make their own sovereign decisions that are not a threat to Russia. I think what he is afraid of is democracy and freedom, and that is the biggest challenge for him.
But Ukraine will not soon join NATO, which under the alliance’s charter would likely push the armed forces of the 30-member nation directly into the battlefield against Russian troops. That would be a commitment far beyond the billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid the United States and its allies have already sent to the Kiev government to help Ukrainian fighters defend their country.
Blinken said the United States is sending Kyiv an additional $53 million to support the purchase of critical power grid equipment ahead of Russian airstrikes targeting Ukrainian infrastructure to knock out power and water systems as winter weather takes hold in the country.
The top US diplomat said the equipment would be sent to Ukraine in an emergency and includes distribution transformers, circuit breakers, surge arresters, disconnectors, vehicles and other key equipment.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.