(Paris) Ukraine says it needs 800 million euros (1.15 billion CAD) in emergency aid to get through the winter and support the attacks inflicted by Russia on its infrastructure, in particular energy, and the international community gathered in Paris intends to help it.
“Of course, it is a large sum, but its cost is less than that of a potential ‘blackout'”, declared the Ukrainian president in a video intervention.
After the conferences in Lugano, Warsaw and Berlin in recent months, this meeting, which brings together 70 delegations from countries and international organizations, including several heads of government, is intended to be “practical-practical”, explained Emmanuel Macron, in the presence of the wife of Mr. Zelensky and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Chmygal.
“What is very important to us are high voltage equipment, such as transformers […]because they are among the most popular targets” of the Russian forces, explained in an interview with AFP the Ukrainian Minister of Energy German Halouchchenko.
According to the French presidency, the promises of contributions already amounted to 400 million on Tuesday morning and were to “increase during the conference”.
The objective is to neutralize the strategy implemented since October by Moscow of bombing infrastructure, particularly energy, to make the Ukrainian population suffer and weaken resistance during the winter.
“Russia, whose military weaknesses have come to light, has opted for a cynical strategy”, lamented Mr. Macron, repeating that these Russian strikes constituted “war crimes” which would “not go unpunished”.
Speakers at the conference are focused on five fundamental areas – energy, water, food, health and transport – to enable Ukraine to keep critical infrastructure in working order.
These efforts are in addition to the crucial support in military equipment provided by the West, led by the United States. Ukraine continues to clamor for more weapons, having so far pushed back the Russian army.
“The situation of the Ukrainian energy system remains difficult, the electricity deficit remains significant. The weather deterioration (strong wind, frost, heavy snow, frost on the cables) negatively affects the distribution conditions and complicates the work of the repair teams,” the Ukrainian company Ukrenergo said on Tuesday morning.
Emmanuel Macron announced for the beginning of 2023 an additional French aid of 76.5 million euros to spend the winter. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has indicated that Berlin will pay 50 million euros.
“We can speed up our support”, launched the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, recalling that the EU had committed to providing Kyiv with macro-financial assistance of 18 billion euros during the year 2023. .
The European Commission will in particular finance the purchase of 30 million LED bulbs for the benefit of Ukraine, which is much less energy-intensive, in an initiative which other countries will be able to join.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will send missions to “secure” five nuclear power plants in Ukraine, including that of Zaporijjia, occupied by the Russian army, indicated, on the sidelines of the conference Denys Chmygal after a meeting in Paris with the world nuclear policeman, Rafael Grossi. This agreement must “obviously involve the Russian side”, said the latter.
China, the big absentee
China is the main absentee from the Paris meeting. On the other hand, ambassadors from the Gulf countries and India are present, or even Hun Sen, the Cambodian Prime Minister who expressed his “sincere appreciation” of Emmanuel Macron’s “active efforts” and his “dialogue initiatives”. for conflict resolution.
The French president’s recurring statements on possible future peace negotiations ruffle some of his allies, particularly in Eastern Europe, who consider them too complacent with Moscow.
After the morning meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the conference will continue at the Ministry of Economy.
It is a question of mobilizing French companies for the reconstruction, in the presence of some 500 French companies, from the behemoths of the CAC 40 to digital start-ups.
“The destruction is such that it takes extremely strong support, not just humanitarian, we need to invest in a reconstruction effort,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a video message.
Although there is no ceasefire, or even the prospect of an end to the war, “the Ukrainians have asked to talk about reconstruction”, argued the Elysée.
On Monday, the Ukrainian president reiterated his 10-point peace plan presented in mid-November. The Kremlin responded on Tuesday that Kyiv must cede territories that Russia claims should be annexed before any diplomatic negotiations.
Asked about a possible battle between the United States and the Europeans for reconstruction-related contracts, the United States Assistant Secretary of Energy, David Turk, encouraged to continue the momentum of solidarity and underlined the immense needs .
“We just have to maintain this solidarity […] we can all bring something different,” he told AFP. “There are many opportunities for all of us.”