Dozens of countries and international organisations were throwing their weight behind a fresh and urgent push to keep Ukraine powered, fed, warm and moving in the face of sustained Russian aerial bombardments that have plunged millions into the cold and dark in winter.
An international donor conference in Paris was expected to raise and help coordinate many tens of millions of Euros in aid — both financial and in kind — to be rushed to Ukraine in coming weeks and months to help its beleaguered civilian population survive winter's freezing temperatures and long nights.
French President Emmanuel Macron, in a speech opening the conference, described Moscow's bombardments of civilian targets as a war crime. He said the Kremlin is attacking civilian infrastructure because its troops have suffered setbacks on the battlefields.
Moscow's intention is to “plunge the Ukrainian people into despair,” Macron said.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who spoke by video link, said 12 million Ukrainians are suffering power outages. He said the country needs electricity generators as urgently as it also needs armored vehicles and armored vests for its troops.
Zelenskyy also said that "when the energy stability of Ukraine is guaranteed for all this winter period, when it is guaranteed that there are no new waves of mass migration from our country to your countries, then it will be guaranteed that there is no point in any further Russian strikes, any blackouts or their search for weapons in Iran or other places, and they will finally have to think about stopping the aggression."
Battle for survival
“Globally we need everything,” said Yevhen Kaplin, who heads a Ukrainian humanitarian group, Proliska, providing cooking stoves, blankets and other aid to front-line regions and away from the battlefields.
With “the shelling, the missiles strikes and strikes on the infrastructure, we can’t say whether there will be gas tomorrow, we can’t predict whether to buy gas stoves or not," he said. "Every day the picture changes.”
Specifically, the Paris conference is to focus on helping Ukraine meet its needs for water, power, food, health and transport during the coming months through to the end of March. The meeting's French organisers say the aid drive will also send a message to the Kremlin that the international community is sticking by Ukraine against Russia's aerial bombardments that have savaged the Ukrainian power grid and other key infrastructure.
Sweden was among the first nations attending the meeting to pledge more aid. Its foreign trade minister, Johan Forssell, announced a contribution of €55 million for humanitarian aid and the rebuilding of schools, hospitals and energy infrastructure.
As winter bites, “we need to do whatever we can to help improve conditions in Ukraine and also help them to fight off the Russian invaders,” he said. "We’re here for them as long as it takes.”
More than 45 nations and 20 international institutions are expected to take part.
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