US Secretary of State Antony Blinken strongly condemned the targeting of Ukrainian civilians by Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling it “barbaric.” He also promised that the United States and NATO allies would continue to support Kyiv in the face of Russian efforts to “splinter our coalition.”
“As Ukraine continues to seize momentum on the battlefield, President Putin has focused his ire and his fire on Ukraine’s civilian population,” Blinken said at a news conference Wednesday at the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Bucharest. “Over the past several weeks, Russia has bombed out more than a third of Ukraine’s energy system, plunging millions into cold, into darkness, as frigid temperatures set in.”
“Heat, water, electricity, for children, for the elderly, for the sick — these are President Putin’s new targets. He’s hitting them hard,” the top US diplomat said. “This brutalization of Ukraine’s people is barbaric.”
On Tuesday, the United States government pledged more than $50 million dollars in equipment to support Ukraine’s electrical system. Blinken said Wednesday that the equipment – generators, transformers, spare parts – would be arriving in Ukraine “not in a matter of months, but in a matter of days, or weeks.”
Blinken said the attacks on civilian infrastructure were part of Putin’s “playbook” to “freeze and starve Ukrainians, force them from their homes,” drive up costs for energy and food around the world, “and then try to splinter our coalition.”
“President Putin thinks that if he can just raise the costs high enough, the world will abandon Ukraine, that it will leave them to fend for themselves. His strategy has not and will not work,” Blinken said.
Allies are aware that “standing up for Ukraine means accepting difficult costs,” Blinken said, “but the cost of inaction would be far higher.”
Blinken said that diplomacy would be necessary to fully end Russia’s war in Ukraine, but noted that “Russia’s savage attacks on Ukrainian civilians are the latest demonstration that President Putin currently has no interest in meaningful diplomacy.”
“The best way to actually hasten the prospects for real diplomacy is to sustain our support to Ukraine and continue to tilt the battlefield in its favor,” Blinken said. “That will also help ensure that Ukraine has the strongest possible negotiating position and hand to play when a negotiating table emerges.”
“Short of Russia ending the aggression had started that is the only path to a peace that is both just and durable,” Blinken said.