KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — An uneasy calm hung over Kyiv on Tuesday as residents of the Ukrainian capital prepared for Russian missile attacks aiming to take out more energy infrastructure as winter approaches.
To ease the hardships and ensure Ukraine’s 43 million people can maintain their resolve in the 10th month of fighting against Russia’s invasion, NATO allies are considering sending Patriot missiles and are boosting provisions of blankets, generators and other basic necessities.
Ukraine's first lady implored the West to retain the steadfastness that Ukrainians have shown against Russian President Vladimir Putin's military campaign.
“Ukrainians are very tired of this war, but we have no choice in the matter," Olena Zelenska, the wife of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said in a BBC interview during a visit to Britain.
“We do hope that the approaching season of Christmas doesn’t make you forget about our tragedy and get used to our suffering,” she said.
A two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Bucharest, Romania, was likely to see the 30-nation alliance make fresh pledges of nonlethal support to Ukraine: fuel, generators, medical supplies and winter equipment, on top of new military support.
The U.S. announced $53 million to buy electrical parts for Ukraine’s electricity grid, which along with water and heating infrastructure has sustained heavy damage from targeted Russian strikes that began Oct. 10 in what Western officials have described as a Russian attempt to weaponize the coming winter cold.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed in Bucharest that deliveries of sophisticated missile systems such as Patriots are under consideration. A senior U.S. defense official who briefed Pentagon reporters Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. is open to providing them.
About a third of Ukraine's residents faced power supply disruptions, Ukraine’s state grid operator said, both because of increased demand due to colder temperatures and the emergency shutdown of power units.
“The overall deficit in the energy system is a consequence of seven waves of Russian missile attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure,” electricity system operator Ukrenergo said.
Kyiv saw continued interruptions to its electricity, heat and water supply, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Tuesday, leading authorities to consider relocating some residents to suburbs of the capital.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted only strong support of Ukraine would impact the Kremlin. He said the military buildup the U.S. and NATO implemented after Russia’s Black Sea fleet bombarded Ukrainian cities and towns and bottled up vital grain shipments for the rest of the world in Ukrainian ports would intensify.
“We’re not going to be deterred,” Blinken told reporters. “We’re going to be reinforcing NATO’s presence from the Black to the Baltic seas.”
The Ukrainian government was working to help residents cope with the cold and snowy weather. It rolled out hundreds of help stations, christened “Points of Invincibility,” where residents facing the loss of power, heating and water can warm up, charge their phones, enjoy snacks and hot drinks, and even be entertained.
“I had no electricity for two days. Now there’s only some electricity, and no gas,” said Vanda Bronyslavavina, who took a breather inside one such help center in Kyiv’s Obolon neighborhood.
The 71-year-old lamented the uncertainty about whether Russia will resume its strikes after infrastructure is fixed, a frustrating cycle of destruction and repair that has made wartime life even more difficult.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president's office, said Russian forces overnight fired missiles, drones and heavy artillery on seven regions in Ukraine’s south and east.
Tymoshenko said that as of Tuesday, power had been restored to 24% of residents in the recently liberated southern city of Kherson.
On the battlefields in eastern Ukraine's Russia-annexed Luhansk region, Ukrainian forces were continuing a slow advance, pushing toward Russian defense lines set up between two key cities, Gov. Serhiy Haidai said.
One civilian was killed and three were injured in a Russian rocket attack on residential neighborhoods in Lyman, an eastern city in Ukraine's Donetsk region, Tymoshenko reported. A hospital in Kherson also came under fire from Russian forces stationed across the Dnieper River, without causing casualties or serious damage, he said.
Some 75 kilometers (47 miles) upstream from the city, Kremlin-installed authorities said shelling killed two civilians and injured two others Tuesday in Nova Kakhovka, another Kherson region city. Because of such attacks, the Moscow-backed officials have encouraged residents to evacuate deeper into Russian-held territory.
The prospect of peace remained remote. The Kremlin reaffirmed Tuesday that negotiations would be possible if Ukraine meets Russian demands. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, “It’s impossible to hold any talks now because the Ukrainian side strongly rejects them.”
He noted that “political will and readiness to discuss the Russian demands” are needed to conduct negotiations.
Russia has demanded that Ukraine recognize Crimea as part of Russia and acknowledge other Russian gains. It also has repeated its earlier demands for “demilitarization” and “denazification,” albeit with less vigor than in the past.
Ukraine wants Russia to withdraw from Crimea and all other annexed territory, to face prosecution for war crimes, to pay for rebuilding Ukraine and to meet other demands.
In other developments:
—Zelenskyy, in his nightly video address Tuesday, welcomed an agreement in Berlin by justice ministers of the Group of Seven industrial powers to coordinate more closely on investigating war crimes in Ukraine. German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said Ukrainian investigators alone have documented nearly 50,000 war crimes and have about 600 suspects. Zelenskyy said the justice ministers will help “eventually restore the force of international law, restore the full effect of the UN Charter and bring Russia to just responsibility.”
—The United Nations welcomed the donation of 260,000 metric tons of fertilizer from Russian producers that couldn't export from European ports because of private-sector concerns about financing and insurance. In an initial step, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the World Food Program-chartered ship, MV Greenwich, left the Netherlands on Tuesday with 20,000 metric tons of fertilizer destined for Malawi via Mozambique.
—An estimated 400,000 Russians have entered Kazakhstan since Putin announced a partial mobilization to bolster his Ukraine invasion force on Sept. 21, the Interfax news agency quoted a Kazakhstan government official as saying. Most of those who fled to Kazakhstan, apparently to avoid Russia's military call-up, are believed to have used it as a crossing point to other countries.
—The governor of Russia's Kursk region said on the Telegram messaging app that two areas had partly lost electricity because of Ukrainian cross-border attacks. The Kyiv government didn't confirm the attacks, which would appear to be retaliation for the Russian bombardment of Ukraine's energy facilities.
Jill Lawless in London and Lorne Cook in Bucharest and Edith M. Lederer from the United Nations contributed to this report.
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