Secretary of State Antony Blinken called recent barrages of Russian missile strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure “barbaric” on Wednesday, accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to “freeze and starve Ukrainians.”
Ukraine says Russia has stepped up its attacks against energy infrastructure targets in recent weeks, leading to rolling blackouts across the country and leaving many residents without heat and water as freezing winter 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,” Blinken said in Romania while attending a NATO foreign minister meeting.
“This brutalization of Ukraine’s people is barbaric,” Blinken continued. “We are clear-eyed about the difficult winter that lies ahead. We know President Putin’s playbook: freeze and starve Ukrainians, force them from their homes, drive up energy, food and other household costs, not only across Europe but around the world, and then try to splinter our coalition.”
Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s state-owned energy company, indicated on Wednesday that the country was producing enough electricity to meet only 73 percent of consumption needs.
“Generation capacity is gradually increasing, which will make it possible to slightly reduce the deficit in the power system,” the company wrote on Telegram.
The figure marks an improvement from one week ago, when the vast majority of customers’ power was knocked out after a barrage of Russian strikes.
Blinken on Tuesday announced the U.S. will provide $53 million to help Ukraine restore its energy grid after the country warned it was running out of supplies to make repairs.
“President Putin thinks that if he can just raise the costs high enough, the world will abandon Ukraine, that we’ll leave them to fend for themselves,” Blinken said on Wednesday. “His strategy has not and will not work. We will continue to prove him wrong.”
When asked how U.S. officials will prevent Russia from destroying the new equipment, which will include transformers, circuit breakers, surge arresters and other technologies, Blinken said the Pentagon was working to ensure the process does not keep “repeating itself.”
The strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in recent weeks have occurred in cities across the country, causing destruction and fatalities far from the front lines, like the capital of Kyiv.
“A part of this is making sure that not only are we getting Ukraine the weapons that it continues to need to defend itself and ward off the Russian aggression, but that some of that is used in a very deliberate way to, as best as possible, protect the energy infrastructure,” Blinken said.