Nato members reaffirmed the organisation's commitment to the 2008 promise to eventually allow Ukraine to join the military alliance and promised to provide more military and economic aid after Ukraine was plunged into darkness following a Russian missile barrage targeting its power infrastructure, during a summit on November 30.
Russia has long complained about a commitment made in Bucharest in 2008 that Ukraine will be welcome in the military alliance, without giving any timeline or conditions for its accession. Rescinding these promises was one of the demands issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry in December last year at the start of the crisis that led to invasion in February.
Nato members also reiterated the commitment to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes” and promised to provide aid and equipment to rebuild and repair Ukraine’s power sector, which is largely functioning again but continues to suffer from rolling blackouts across the country.
"Russia's aggression, including its persistent and unconscionable attacks on Ukrainian civilian and energy infrastructure, is depriving millions of Ukrainians of basic human services," Nato foreign ministers said in a statement.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told delegates that the Kremlin was using the winter as "a weapon of war". Russia acknowledges attacking Ukrainian infrastructure but denies deliberately seeking to harm civilians.
"Russia is using brutal missile and drone attacks to leave Ukraine cold and dark this winter," Stoltenberg said at a meeting of the alliance's foreign ministers on the first of two days of talks in Romania's capital Bucharest, Reuters reported.
"President (Vladimir) Putin is trying to use winter as a weapon of war to force Ukrainians to freeze or flee. He is trying to break the will of the brave Ukrainian people and to divide all of us who support them," he added.
Russia points out that Nato used similar tactics during the war in Serbia, when Nato bombed 80% of Serbia’s power stations to impair its economy.
Speaking in Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko called on Nato members to speed up military aid for Ukraine and especially for more and better air defence systems. “Our first priority is to protect the people and the energy infrastructure. We need more air defence systems for that,” he said. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba emphasised the same at the summit.
"If we have transformers and generators, we can restore our energy needs. If we have air defence systems, we can protect ourselves from the next Russian missile strikes," Kuleba said, as quoted by Reuters. "In a nutshell: Patriots and transformers are what Ukraine needs the most."
Poland and Germany have begun talks with the other members on possibly moving some of their Patriot missiles to Ukraine to help it protect from Russian missile attacks.
Stoltenberg confirmed that talks on supplying Ukraine with the US-made Patriot air defence units were ongoing but cautioned that the systems delivered needed to be effective, maintained and provided with sufficient ammunition, which was a "huge challenge".
Commitments were also made to provide Ukraine with power equipment, including a $53mn pledge from the US to buy power grid equipment.
"This equipment will be rapidly delivered to Ukraine on an emergency basis to help Ukrainians persevere through the winter," a State Department statement said. The package will include distribution transformers, circuit breakers and surge arresters among other equipment, the statement said.