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Donors gather in Paris to get Ukraine though winter, bombing

PARIS (AP) — Dozens of countries and international organizations are throwing their weight behind a fresh push Tuesday to keep Ukraine powered, fed, warm and moving in the face of Russia’s sustained aerial bombardments that have plunged millions into the cold and dark during winter.

An international donor conference in Paris was expected to raise and help coordinate many tens of millions of dollars of aid — both financial and in kind — to be rushed in coming weeks and months to Ukraine to help its beleaguered civilian population survive winter’s freezing temperatures and long nights.

Specifically, the conference is to focus on helping Ukraine meet its needs for water, power, food, health and transport during the coming months through to the end of March. The meeting’s French organizers say the aid drive will also send a message to the Kremlin that the international community is sticking by Ukraine against Russia’s aerial bombardments that have savaged the Ukrainian power grid and other key infrastructure.

Sweden was among the first nations attending the meeting to pledge more aid. Its foreign trade minister, Johan Forssell, announced a contribution of 55 million euros (US$58 million) for humanitarian aid and the rebuilding of schools, hospitals and energy infrastructure.

As winter bites, “we need to do whatever we can to help improve conditions in Ukraine and also help them to fight off the Russian invaders,” he said. “We’re here for them as long as it takes.”

French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, attending remotely by video link, will open the conference with speeches.

The conference is the latest Ukraine-related diplomatic effort that Macron has championed.

The meeting also aims to put in a place a system to coordinate international aid this winter, mirroring the way that Western nations supplying weapons coordinate their military support. A web-based platform will enable Ukraine to list its civilian aid needs, and allow donors to show what they’ll supply in response.

The conference’s French organizers say they are expecting more than 45 nations and 20 international institutions to take part.


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