Thursday, 9 February, 2023

Zelensky urges €800m in emergency aid for Ukraine

Zelensky urges €800m in emergency aid for Ukraine

PARIS: President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday said Ukraine needed emergency aid for its energy sector totalling around 800 million euros to help his country survive Russia's bombing of its civilian infrastructure, reports AFP

Failing to make an impact on the battlefield in its invasion, Moscow has switched tactics since October when it began airstrikes targeting Ukraine's energy network, plunging millions into cold and darkness at the onset of winter.

The alarm over Ukraine's ability to cope comes nine months into the Russian assault against its neighbour, which has seen Moscow make only slight territorial gains in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Zelensky made the request for 800 million euros at international conference in Paris designed to raise material and money to repair Ukraine's damaged infrastructure.

It is hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron with whom he has sometimes had testy ties.

"Of course it is a very high amount, but the cost is less than the cost of a potential blackout," Zelensky told the gathering in Paris via video link.

"I hope that decisions will be made accordingly."

Zelensky said that Ukraine needed transformers, equipment to repair damaged high-voltage power lines, as well as generators and gas turbines.

"Because of the destruction of our power plants by terror attacks we will need to use more gas this winter than expected," added Zelensky, whose wife Olena attended the conference in person.

Zelensky urged G7 nations on Monday to provide "about two billion cubic metres" of additional gas to get through the winter as well as more tanks and missiles to fight the invasion.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmghal also appealed for help from the 70 states and international agencies gathered in Paris for the "Standing with the Ukrainian People" conference.

"They (Russians) want to put us into darkness and it will fail, thanks to our partners all over the world," he added.

Shmygal also said Tuesday that the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA had agreed to dispatch permanent teams to the country's nuclear plants, including the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia plant, a hotspot of fighting.

The prime minister said after a meeting with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi that teams would deploy to plants at Zaporizhzhia, Rivne, Khmelnytskyi, Pivdennoukrainska and Chernobyl without specifying a timeframe.

Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko told AFP ahead of the conference that Russia's war against Ukraine "completely changes our understanding of nuclear security".

Macron said the focus in Paris was on providing short-term assistance given Russia's attempts to "sow terror" in Ukraine by "cowardly" bombing the country's infrastructure.

"Very concretely, these are commitments to deliver generators, help repair infrastructure, deliver LEDs (light-emitting diodes) for lighting," he said.

Macron has riled his Ukrainian allies in the past, most notably in June when he said "we must not humiliate Russia".

Macron called for Russia to be offered "security guarantees" at the end of the war during an interview on December 3, drawing criticism from some Ukrainian and eastern European politicians that he was focusing on diplomatic compromises with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But in a call at the weekend, he "reminded President Zelensky that Ukraine can count on France's support for as long as is required to fully re-establish its sovereignty and national integrity," the French presidency said.

UN chief Antonio Guterres will also make an address remotely to attendees, which include ambassadors from some Gulf states, as well as India and Indonesia.

China has not sent a representative.

- No Putin presser -

French organisers have stressed that the meeting is different from other recent international gatherings in Lugano, Warsaw or Berlin dedicated to long-term reconstruction.

Instead, they hope donors will pledge help from engineering expertise to generators and spare parts to carry out repairs on the energy grid.

One key outcome will be developing a new platform, agreed by G7 leaders Monday, that will enable donors to see Ukraine's needs and coordinate their aid.

In Russia meanwhile, the Kremlin has announced that Putin will not hold his annual end-of-year press conference this year, a break with tradition amid the military setbacks.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov gave no reason for not holding the event which Putin has hosted almost every year he has been in power since 2000.

Elsewhere, Belarus held a surprise inspection of its armed forces Tuesday, raising fears of a possible escalation in the conflict.

Belarus is a close ally of Moscow but Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly said he does not plan to send Belarusian troops to Ukraine.