Ukraine live briefing: U.S. announces aid for Ukraine’s battered energy infrastructure

People charge their devices, use internet connections and warm up inside a mobile heating point on Nov. 28 in the town of Vyshgorod, outside Kyiv, Ukraine. (Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images)

BUCHAREST, Romania — The United States on Tuesday unveiled a plan to rehabilitate Ukraine’s energy grid, pledging $53 million to help Kyiv procure circuit breakers and other hardware after a sustained Russian air campaign battered the country’s infrastructure.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the plan during talks in Bucharest with counterparts from the Group of Seven industrialized nations. The pledge comes as Ukraine grapples with widespread blackouts and freezing temperatures.

“This equipment will be rapidly delivered to Ukraine on an emergency basis to help Ukrainians persevere through the winter,” the State Department said in a statement Tuesday.

U.S. unveils plan to rebuild Ukraine energy grid after Russian assault

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • Ukraine’s energy grid operator says it can provide only 70 percent of the electricity required. A senior State Department official told reporters that 25 to 30 percent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been damaged by Russian missiles and drone attacks. “What Russia is trying to do is to systematically dismantle the national energy grid at a moment of peak vulnerability,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity on Monday to preview the U.S. energy plan for Ukraine.
  • Russia this week postponed nuclear arms control talks with the United States because of the “extremely negative” relationship between the two countries, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said in a statement on Telegram. She accused the United States of harboring a “pathological desire to harm” Russia. The talks, under the New START treaty, were scheduled to begin Tuesday in Cairo.
  • NATO reiterated its longstanding commitment to one day admit Ukraine as it pledged to send more aid, the Associated Press reported. “NATO’s door is open,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday, adding that “Russia does not have a veto” on countries joining. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Telegram warned NATO against providing Ukrainian forces with Patriot missile defense systems.

Battleground updates

  • The area around Bakmut has become a center of gravity in the east, the Pentagon said Tuesday, as Ukrainian and Russian forces struggle for the strategic city in the Donetsk region, where important road and rail lines meet. “That fighting has been very intense,” a senior U.S. military official said. Russian counteroffensives have recently eroded Ukrainian gains there, the official said.
  • Bad weather and other factors have reduced Russian sorties, a senior U.S. military official told reporters Tuesday. The number of flights are now in the 10s per day, about a quarter of the flights that previously occurred in better weather conditions, the official said, though other factors like ongoing operations can also affect the number. Russia has relied on air-launched missiles as a significant way to strike infrastructure and other targets.
  • Moscow has likely shifted away from one of its favored battlefield organizational strategies in the past three months, Britain’s Defense Ministry said. For the past 10 years, Russia has used the battalion tactical groups (BTG) system to integrate battalions with their armor, reconnaissance and artillery sub-units, British intelligence officials said. They believe the system has fallen out of favor because it is unsuitable for high-intensity, large-scale combat.

Global impact

  • Moscow has lodged a protest with the Roman Catholic Church following comments by Pope Francis about Russian ethnic minorities, Tass reported. In an interview with America Magazine on Monday, Francis described Russia’s Chechen and Buryati minorities as “the cruelest … perhaps” among the Russian forces fighting in Ukraine, before clarifying that “the one who invades is the Russian state.” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described the minority groups, who have been deployed to fight in significant numbers, as part of one multireligious Russian family.
  • Qatar has signed a 15-year energy deal with Germany to supply it with liquefied natural gas starting in 2026, the Associated Press reported. Germany plans to receive the gas through a specialized terminal at Brunsbüttel near the North Sea. Before this year, Berlin depended on Moscow for more than half its natural gas, but since the invasion of Ukraine, it has vowed to phase out Russian gas completely.
  • President Biden held talks Tuesday with legislative leaders from both parties to discuss next year’s funding priorities, including assistance to Ukraine. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy expressed wariness about the level of U.S. spending on the conflict. I’m not for a blank check for anything," he told reporters. “This is hard-working taxpayer money.”

From our correspondents

From a bunker, an acting mayor keeps her front-line Ukraine town alive: Former kindergarten teacher Svitlana Mandrych is one of the few people left in Orikhiv, which she now administers from her office in the basement of its badly damaged city hall, write Samantha Schmidt and Serhii Korolchuk. The building has been hit by artillery fire so incessantly that 51-year-old Mandrych was forced to move her office to a cold, concrete-walled room underground, lit by a single lightbulb. She spends her days underground fielding nonstop calls with the help of two remaining council members and the company of a dog named Bullet. “Everybody has a different fear tolerance,” she said. “I cannot leave the people of Orikhiv behind.”