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:NORWAY: Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt in Kyiv: Foreign Minister warns against use of the cold as a weapon

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Back in Kyiv. ‘I visited Kyiv in May, when I saw schools and apartment blocks destroyed by bombing and spoke to people who had dug up bodies from mass graves. The visit left a profound impression on me. Now I am back in Kyiv, a city that has been living with war for almost ten months. The scale and brutality of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is overwhelming. Credit: Tuva Bogsnes, MFA

Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt is back in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. ‘The situation we are witnessing is desperate. Many people here are facing a grim choice: to flee or to freeze. Russia is pursuing this war with an unprecedented degree of cynicism,’ Ms Huitfeldt said.

It is five months since the Norwegian Foreign Minister last visited Kyiv. This time too, her visit is intended to demonstrate Norwegian solidarity with the Ukrainian people and Norway’s support for Ukraine’s fight to defend itself against Russia’s attacks. Over the past five months, the war has become more brutal. There have been more widespread attacks, and this, combined with the onset of winter and colder weather, has made the situation far more critical, not least for the more than 6.5 million people who are internally displaced in Ukraine.

‘Russia has been deliberately trying to destroy civilian infrastructure. This inhumane strategy appears to be aimed at cutting off people’s access to electricity and heating just as the winter begins. It is a despicable attempt to use the cold as a weapon to drive people out of their homes,’ Ms Huitfeldt said.

No lighting or heating

After last week’s massive bombing campaign, some 70 % of Kyiv’s population had no electricity. According to the Ukrainian authorities, some areas, including large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, will in the worst case be without heating for the whole winter. Nevertheless, so far there is little to indicate that the Ukrainians are losing heart or the will to resist Russia’s onslaught.

‘Quite the contrary, in fact. It is moving to witness the resilience of the Ukrainians and their determination to win the war, whatever the cost. This is despite the enormous suffering the Ukrainian people have been through, and the pressures this war is putting on Ukrainian society as a whole,’ Ms Huitfeldt said.

Huge humanitarian needs

After nine months of war, the humanitarian needs are enormous. According to the UN (OCHA), nearly 18 million people – 40 % of the Ukrainian population – are in need of humanitarian assistance. The UN Refugee Agency has estimated that close to 8 million Ukrainians have fled their home country. At the same time, more than 6.5 million people are internally displaced. This is a brutal conflict that is targeting the most vulnerable people.

‘This is why Norwegian support is still so important. And why we will continue to support Ukraine in the time ahead. Norway will stand with the people of Ukraine. We have provided, and will continue to provide, large quantities of humanitarian assistance, through the UN, Norwegian and international humanitarian organisations, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. We are also making substantial donations of weapons and providing other military support to assist Ukraine in its legitimate fight to defend itself,’ Ms Huitfeldt said.

Norwegian support for gas procurement

The Foreign Minister has brought with her the recently signed agreement on funding of NOK 2 billion to enable Ukraine to purchase natural gas during the coming winter. In addition, Norway will be providing NOK 1 billion for repairs to the electricity supply system and other important infrastructure.

Gas purchases funded by Norway are one element of a larger package to alleviate the energy situation in Ukraine. Together with other donors such as the US, France, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and multilateral institutions, Norway is helping Ukraine to maintain energy supplies to its people.

‘Ukraine has been demonstrating a remarkable capacity to maintain operations and repair damaged infrastructure, but the country needs support both to ensure energy supplies and for running repairs. Support for repairing the electricity supply system is a high priority. Without power, people here in Ukraine have no access to health services or hospitals, which clearly has very serious consequences,’ said Ms Huitfeldt.

Electrical switchgear from Norway

In consultation with the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection, we are constantly looking at what equipment Norway can provide to assist Ukraine. Most recently, we have agreed that Norway will dismantle and donate a set of 300 kV switchgear. This is an element of the power supply system that is installed between transformer stations and the highest voltage distribution lines to electricity consumers, and is one of the types of equipment the Ukrainian authorities are requesting.

‘Switchgear of this kind is a vital element of the electricity infrastructure for whole cities. We are continually evaluating how we can target Norwegian support to provide help where it is most urgently needed. We will maintain our strong support for Ukraine, in close cooperation with the EU and other partners. This is vital in a fluid and constantly changing situation,’ said Ms Huitfeldt.

Nordic-Baltic collaboration

The visit by the Norwegian Foreign Minister is part of a joint Nordic-Baltic initiative. Ms Huitfeldt is therefore in Kyiv together with her Nordic and Baltic colleagues.

‘Russia is trying to sow discord between Allied countries, but our response is the direct opposite. We have never been more united, and our determination to protect and fight for our fundamental values has never been greater. This visit sends an important message to the Ukrainian people: you are not alone. Our solidarity and our support will endure,’ said Ms Huitfeldt.

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