By Jared Malsin, Noemie Bisserbe and Ann M. Simmons
Dec 19, 2022
The Wall Street Journal
Explosions damaged a bridge used by Russian forces, and Kyiv received promises of more than €1 billion to help weather winter
Ukraine garnered pledges for fresh aid to help it ride out the winter months after explosions rocked a bridge in the country’s east used by Russian forces to transport military hardware to the front lines of the conflict.
Delegates from dozens of countries and international institutions gathered in Paris on Tuesday and pledged more than 1 billion euros, equivalent to around $1.05 billion, in aid to Ukraine, according to French officials. Delegates discussed ways to provide urgent access to water, food, energy, transport and healthcare in Ukraine throughout the winter, French officials said.
The pledges came in response to months of Russian missile and drone attacks that have targeted Ukraine’s electrical grid and left millions of Ukrainians in the dark as winter sets in.
Hours earlier, Ivan Fedorov, the exiled Ukrainian mayor of the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol, said a bridge linking the city to the nearby village of Kostiantynivka had been attacked. “It was this bridge that the occupiers were using to transport military equipment from the Eastern front,” Mr. Fedorov said in a post on the Telegram messaging channel. “I am warning you. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are near. You will run away without looking back!”
The Russian-controlled regional administration said the supports of the bridge were damaged as a result of an explosion, causing the road bed to sag. Officials in the city described the incident as “an act of sabotage.” Both car and pedestrian traffic were suspended on the bridge as emergency services worked at the site, they said.
The blasts in Melitopol show that Ukraine is determined to continue attacks on Russian forces and infrastructure used by the Russian military even as winter sets in. Western officials have warned that freezing conditions are expected to slow the pace of the conflict and delay further advances by Ukrainian forces in the east.
“With each victory of your country on the ground, Russia reacts cowardly with new strikes against electricity, gas or water distribution infrastructure,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. “It is urgent to support the capacity of the Ukrainian people to resist,” he added.
The bridge attack is the second in the city of Melitopol in recent days after Ukraine’s military used U.S.-supplied long range artillery to demolish a hotel housing Russian military personnel.
For months, Ukrainian forces have been striking deep behind Russian lines in eastern Ukraine in order to break up concentrations of Russian troops and cut Russian supply lines. Such attacks, including those by American-made Himars artillery, have been at the heart of a pair of offensives in which Ukrainian forces reclaimed large swaths of territory from the Kremlin in northeastern and southeastern Ukraine.
Russia also blamed Ukraine for an attack in October that severely damaged a critical bridge linking Russia to the Crimean peninsula, which was occupied by Russia in 2014.
On Tuesday, Alexander Bogomaz, the governor of Russia’s Bryansk region, bordering Ukraine, reported shelling overnight in the city of Klintsy, where he said some missile parts had fallen onto the territory’s industrial zone after being shot down by Russia’s air defense systems.
In Washington, the Biden administration is completing plans to give Ukraine a Patriot missile defense system, with approval coming as early as this week, U.S. officials said. Kyiv has long called for the West to supply the sophisticated missile batteries to help it defend against Russian strikes on the country’s infrastructure.
Russia has launched waves of missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s energy grid since October, leaving millions of Ukrainians without power for hours at a time. The attacks are part of a broader strategy to demoralize Ukraine’s civilian population after months in which Russian forces have lost ground in the war, Ukrainian officials say.
“Although it is obvious that even without light we know well where to shoot and what to liberate, Russia still hopes for blackouts,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address to the nation on Monday.
Addressing the Paris conference by video link on Tuesday, Mr. Zelensky said Ukraine needed around €800 million in emergency aid for its energy sector. More than 700 French companies met separately with the French and Ukrainian leaders on Tuesday to discuss short- to medium-term investments to rebuild Ukraine’s infrastructure, the French officials said.
Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-installed leader of Ukraine’s occupied eastern region of Donetsk, told Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday that Kyiv’s defeat was imminent thanks to Russian strikes on Ukraine’s energy facilities.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that a pullout of Russian forces from Ukraine by year’s end was out of the question.
He said Kyiv needed to take into account “the realities that have developed,” including Russia’s recent absorption of new territories from Ukraine following the results of referendums that the West viewed as a sham.
“Without taking these new realities into account, any progress is impossible,” he said.
Russian forces launched at least seven separate attacks on areas around the city of Nikopol in eastern Ukraine, according to Valentyn Reznichenko, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region. The attacks, using Grad MLRS missiles and heavy artillery, damaged more than a dozen
residential and commercial buildings and power lines, Mr. Reznichenko said on his Telegram channel. There were no casualties, he said.
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