© Reuters. A man walks down by a damaged building, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, inside the war-torn formerly Russian occupied city of Lyman, Donetsk region of Ukraine, December 11, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
By John Irish and Michel Rose
PARIS (Reuters) – Ukraine’s allies will meet in Paris on Tuesday to provide urgent aid to help the country get through freezing winter temperatures as Russian forces target civilian infrastructure across the country.
About 70 countries and institutions will discuss what can be offered between now and March to maintain water, food, energy, health and transport.
A second meeting between France, Ukraine and some 500 companies will see what can be invested and done in the short to long-term.
“Since October, we have had Russia trying to compensate for the difficulties it is experiencing on the front with a series of intensive bombings which is targeting not the military infrastructure, but very clearly the civilian infrastructure of Ukraine,” a French diplomat told reporters in a briefing ahead of the meeting.
“This situation puts Ukraine in great difficulty when winter is already here,” he said.
He added that the immediate priority was to ensure the electricity network did not collapse and that water pipes did not freeze.
“The reality is that our objective will be to find replacement pieces to ensure the infrastructure that has been destroyed by the Russians works again,” he said.
The international meeting will look to create an online mechanism so that Ukraine can put down its urgent needs and donor countries can respond in accordance, the diplomat said.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will address the meeting by video link and his wife, Olena Zelenska, will attend in person.
The conference comes amid criticism of French President Emmanuel Macron from some European allies and Ukraine itself about French policy on Ukraine and whether it is a weak link in the Western alliance that has been bolstering Kyiv against Russia’s invasion.
Macron’s mixed messages on Ukraine have caused exasperation that has become increasingly public in some east European capitals. The French presidency has dismissed this saying his comments, notably on providing security guarantees for Russia, are taken out of context and Paris has never wavered in its support for Kyiv.