Russia-Ukraine crisis

NATO seeks to shore up Russia’s neighbors as Moscow attacks Ukraine on multiple fronts

Reuters
NATO seeks to shore up Russia’s neighbors as Moscow attacks Ukraine on multiple fronts

UKRAINE'S ARMY. Viktor, 56, a member of the 68th Independent Jager Brigade of the Ukrainian Army prepares hot water for coffee in the kitchen area in a dug out field position near the frontline in the Southern Donbas region in Ukraine, November 29, 2022.

Leah Millis/Reuters

(1ST UPDATE) 'Despite extremely large losses, the occupiers are still trying to advance' in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says

KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russian forces were trying to advance in the northeast and east and “planning something” in the south, while NATO sought on Wednesday, November 30, to reassure other countries that fear destabilization from Moscow.

Ukraine’s General Staff said its forces had repelled six Russian attacks in the past 24 hours in the eastern Donbas region, while Russian artillery had relentlessly shelled the right bank of the Dnipro River and Kherson city in the south.

Winter weather has hampered fighting on the ground, and Zelenskiy has told Ukrainians to expect a major Russian barrage this week on Ukraine’s stricken electricity infrastructure, which Moscow has pounded roughly weekly since early October.

“These are president (Vladimir) Putin’s new targets. He’s hitting them hard,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after NATO talks in Bucharest.

Putin had focused his “fire and ire” on Ukraine’s civilians by bombing more than a third of its energy system supplying power and water, but the strategy would not work, Blinken said, adding that NATO was also concerned by China’s ties with Moscow.

The NATO allies offered on Wednesday to help nearby Moldova, Georgia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina – all under pressure from Russia – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

“If there is one lesson from Ukraine it is that we need to support them now,” Stoltenberg told a news conference, while Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told Reuters “the beast also wants to take control of the Western Balkans”.

Zelenskiy said Russian forces were attacking Donetsk and Luhansk which make up the eastern Donbas as well as Kharkiv in the northeast, where Ukraine pushed them back in September.

“The situation at the front is difficult,” he said in his nightly video address. “Despite extremely large losses, the occupiers are still trying to advance” in the east and “they are planning something in the south,” he said, without elaborating.

Russia said its forces had taken full control of two settlements in the Donetsk region and destroyed a warehouse in the Dnipropetrovsk region containing HIMARS shells.

Reuters could not independently verify the latest battlefield reports.

Patriots

The ministers began their two-day meeting in Bucharest on Tuesday with pledges both to help Ukrainians cope with what the defense alliance’s chief said was Moscow using winter weather as “a weapon of war” and to help sustain Kyiv’s military campaign.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the meeting’s outcome showed NATO was “absolutely not interested in a political and diplomatic solution in Ukraine”.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmitro Kuleba said Ukrainians needed fast and lasting help, and was looking to the global South as well as the West.

“We need to have more countries on board in this common struggle,” he said.

Kuleba also demanded Russia withdraw its forces from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the south, where Moscow announced it had put the Ukrainian chief engineer in charge. Ukraine has said the engineer is a hostage.

Washington pledged $53 million to buy power grid equipment, and US President Joe Biden said providing more military assistance was a priority. Republicans, who take control of Congress’ House of Representatives in January, have talked about pausing the funding, which has exceeded $18 billion.

Accumulating damage

In Kyiv, snow fell and temperatures were expected to remain below freezing as millions in and around the capital struggled to heat their homes despite attacks on infrastructure that Kyiv and its allies say are aimed at harming civilians, a war crime.

Workers have raced to repair the damage even as they anticipate more; electricity supplies crept back up towards three quarters of needs on Wednesday, national grid operator Ukrenergo said, a full week after the worst Russian barrage so far left millions of people shivering in cold and darkness.

Moscow, which has declared large parts of eastern and southern Ukraine annexed, says Ukrainians can end their suffering by accepting demands it has not spelled out. Ukraine says it will fight on until Russia withdraws completely.

Kyiv, where nearly 1 million people were without power on Tuesday, would see more emergency power cuts on Wednesday, DTEK, Ukraine’s biggest private electricity producer, said.

The European Union said it aims to use proceeds from investing Russian assets it has frozen to help compensate Ukraine for the damage Moscow has inflicted, and proposed the establishment of a court to try “Russia’s crime of aggression”.

Kyiv welcomed the moves, saying Moscow had no legitimate goals. “It invaded another country violating international law, deliberately destroys its infrastructure and commits mass murders,” presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

Russia says the freezing of assets is theft, and denies that the invasion, which it calls a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor, constitutes the war crime of aggression.

In the south, an overnight Russian missile attack damaged a gas distribution facility in the Zaporizhzhia region, while shells and heavy artillery hit Nikopol and Marganets – towns across the Dnipro river from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, the governors of the two regions said.

Ukrainian forces struck a power plant in Russia’s Kursk region on Tuesday, causing some electricity outages, the regional governor there said. In Russia’s Bryansk region bordering Ukraine’s northeast, a local governor said a large oil storage tank was on fire on Wednesday, without giving a cause. – Rappler.com

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