Donors meet in Paris to get Ukraine through winter, Russian bombing

The European Union’s chief executive, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, said the missile and drone bombardments are aimed at breaking Ukrainian morale but added: “Russia will fail.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who spoke by video link, said 12 million Ukrainians are suffering power outages. In presenting a long list of immediate needs, Zelenskyy said his country requires electricity generators as urgently as it also needs armored vehicles and armored vests for its troops.

Donor pledges quickly surged past the 400-million euro mark, the equivalent of more than US$420 million, Macron’s office announced. The total included 125 million euros ($131 million) worth of aid from host France.

As temperatures plunge and snow falls, Ukraine’s needs are huge and pressing. Successive waves of cruise missiles and exploding drones since October have destroyed about half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, the Kyiv government says. It says Russia is trying to create a fresh wave of refugees to Europe. Russia says that by striking civilian infrastructure, its aim is to weaken Ukraine’s ability to defend itself.

In Ukraine, life for many is becoming a 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.

Ukraine solidarity conference in Paris.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends the conference via video link.Theresa Suarez / AFP – Getty Images

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.”

The Paris meeting — attended by 46 countries and 24 international organizations — also was putting in place a system to coordinate international aid this winter, so donors of equipment and other aid don’t double-up. A web-based platform will enable Ukraine to list its civilian aid needs, and allow donors to show what they’ll supply in response.

Sweden was among the first nations attending the meeting to pledge more aid. Its foreign trade minister, Johan Forssell, announced a contribution of $58 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.”

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