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NATO strengthens defense throughout Europe

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NATO foreign ministers are to meet for two days in Romania’s capital Bucharest from Tuesday to pledge their continued support to Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

At a press conference on Monday, after a meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg asked the alliance to increase its support in the region. “Investing in our defense,” he said, “is important as we face our greatest security crisis in a generation.”

In response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, he said, NATO is increasing its presence from the Baltics to the Black Sea region.

The head of the alliance also said new battle groups have been established, including one led by France in Romania, while fighter jets from Canada help “keep our skies safe” and US Patriot missiles bolster Nato’s defences. “We will do what is necessary to protect the defenses of all our allies,” he added.

Stoltenberg also highlighted the support of other partners facing Russian pressure, such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia and Moldova.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said the decision taken at the Madrid summit to strengthen NATO troops and military equipment on the alliance’s eastern flank must take effect as soon as possible.

Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s commitment to approve membership for Sweden and Finland, which would expand NATO’s eastern flank.

Stoltenberg said Russia is weaponizing the winter by striking Ukraine’s critical power infrastructure, leaving civilians without power, heat or water in freezing temperatures.

“We cannot let Putin win,” Stoltenberg said. “This would show authoritarian leaders around the world that they can achieve their goals by using military force – and make the world a more dangerous place for all of us. So it is in our own security interests to support Ukraine.

“We must be prepared for more attacks,” the NATO chief added. “That is why NATO has increased its support to Ukraine with additional air defense systems, such as … drones as well as cruise and ballistic missiles.”

At the same time, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed his Nordic and Baltic counterparts from Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden in Kyiv.

‘The strongest message from this visit is: Ukraine must win this war and therefore… Western support should be stronger; more heavy weapons without any political reservations, including long-range missiles, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told Reuters in an interview.

Ukraine said on Monday it had been forced to impose regular emergency shutdowns in areas across the country after a setback in its race to repair energy infrastructure hit by Russian missile strikes.

Power units at several power stations had to make emergency shutdowns and demand for electricity has increased as snowy winter weather grips the capital and elsewhere, national grid operator Ukrenergo said in a statement.

“Once the causes of the emergency stop are eliminated, the units will return to operation, which will reduce the deficit in the power system and reduce the amount of restrictions for consumers,” it said.

DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private power producer, said it would cut electricity supplies by 60% to its consumers in Kyiv, where temperatures hover around zero degrees Celsius (32F).

“We are doing everything we can to provide power to each customer for 2-3 hours twice a day,” DTEK’s Kyiv office wrote on Facebook.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Sunday that the coming week could be as difficult as last week, when Russian missile strikes caused extensive damage to the country’s power grid.

“We understand that the terrorists are planning new attacks. We know this for a fact,” Zelenskyy said. “And as long as they have missiles, unfortunately, they will not calm down.”

Russian airstrikes have repeatedly hit key infrastructure targets in Ukraine, knocking out essential services as the winter season looms. Russian officials have denied targeting civilians with such attacks.

Continued support from the US

Newly elected US Republican lawmakers who would take leadership roles in the House of Representatives in January pledged on Sunday that Congress would continue to support Ukraine militarily in its fight against Russia but said there would be more scrutiny of the aid before it is sent to Kiev’s forces.

Congressmen Michael McCaul of Texas and Mike Turner of Ohio told ABC’s “This Week” that there would be continued bipartisan Republican and Democratic support for Ukraine as Republicans assume a slim majority in the House, despite some bipartisan opposition has appeared.

Turner, likely the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said: “We’re going to make sure they get what they need. We’re going to have bipartisan support.”

McCaul, the likely head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “If we give them what they need, they win.”

But McCaul said there would be a difference in considering Ukraine aid from the outgoing Democratic control of the House when Republicans take over.

“In fact, we will provide more oversight, transparency and accountability,” he said. “We’re not going to write a blank check.”

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