BUCHAREST, Nov 30 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Vladimir Putin had focused his “fire and fury” on Ukraine’s civilian population and warned that Russia’s latest strategy of targeting vital infrastructure would fail to divide Ukraine’s supporters .
“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 told a news conference in Bucharest after a two-day NATO summit.
Blinken accused Putin of trying to split the Western coalition and force it to abandon Ukraine by freezing and starving Ukrainians and raising energy costs not across Europe but around the world.
“This strategy has not, and will not, work. We will continue to prove him wrong. That is what I heard loud and clear from all countries here in Bucharest,” Blinken added.
Russia has carried out massive attacks on Ukraine’s electricity transmission and heating infrastructure roughly weekly since October, in what Kyiv and its allies say is a deliberate campaign to harm civilians and a war crime.
The US and Western allies have focused their attention on providing Ukraine with cash as well as relevant equipment to increase Kiev’s energy resilience. Russia’s latest attack has left millions of people in the dark and without heating in sub-zero temperatures.
The United States on Tuesday announced $53 million to support the purchase of power grid equipment for Ukraine and have it delivered to the country as soon as possible after Ukraine said it needed transformers and generators as well as air defense systems.
U.S. military planners were working to ensure that equipment available to restore Ukraine’s damaged energy infrastructure was not simply destroyed again by Russian strikes, Blinken said.
“We’re also trying to be very deliberate … in trying to establish the best possible defense of critical energy infrastructure in Ukraine so that we don’t have a process that keeps repeating itself,” he said.
Blinken said the main message from this week’s NATO summit was that the Western alliance’s support for Ukraine will continue and that it was “clear-eyed” about the difficult winter ahead.
“Our collective outcome to support Ukraine is and will continue to be ironclad. Now throughout the winter and as long as it takes for Ukraine to succeed,” he said.
Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Simon Lewis; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky
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