Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt was back in Kyiv this week, along with colleagues from other Nordic and Baltic nations on their way to a NATO meeting in Bucharest. They arrived after new attacks by the Russians that Huitfeldt equated to “overwhelming brutality.”
It’s been five months since she last visited Kyiv, along with the president of the Norwegian Parliament. The goal this week was also to demonstrate sympathy and solidarity with the Ukrainians. She noted how Russia’s war on Ukraine has become even more brutal, with Russia now firing off missiles at cities and the civilian population all over the country after being forced to retreat from eastern regions invaded earlier. Power plants and energy infrastructure have been targeted as well, just as winter sets in.
Huitfeldt claimed Russia has been “deliberately” trying to destroy civilian infrastructure throught an “inhumane strategy” aimed at cutting off access to electricity and heating. Kyiv has been among Ukrainian cities blacked out for lengthy periods, leaving residents without water as well. She accused Russian officials of trying to force a choice upon Ukrainians to either flee or freeze.
“It’s a despicable attempt to use the cold as a weapon to drive people out of their homes,” Huitfeldt said. The Ukrainian capital was still freezing and without electricity in many areas, not least Donetsk and Luhansk, which face a lack of heat and lighting all winter. Huitfeldt and six other foreign ministers witnessed damage and hardship in Kyiv, but also resilience: “It makes a huge impression to experience the Ukrainians’ strong resistance and willingness to win the war, whatever it costs.”
She and her colleagues have formed a pro-Ukrainian Nordic-Baltic alliance at the initiative of Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, who met with Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on a night train to Kyiv. He’s urging “more intense” deliveries of weapons, even stronger sanctions and futher isolation of Russia.
Huitfeldt told NRK that Norway does plan to send more weapons, but announces deliveries only after they’ve arrived. Norway also recently announced another NOK 3 billion in humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine and confirmed that Norway is helping to train more Ukrainian soldiers, now in Poland and Germany in addition to the UK.
Norway also has emerged as the second-largest supplier of gifts and guaranties to Ukraine made through the European Bank for Reconstrution and Development (EBRD), equivalent to EUR 201 milllion. Norway’s contribution, second only to the US’, comes largely in the form of gas supplies to help Ukraine get through the winter. The new gift of gas worth NOK 2 billion comes after criticism that Norway has been profiting on the high prices for its oil and gas, making it even more important for the country to share its wealth.
The Norwegian defense ministry is also donating a military field hospital and ambulance buses in addition to extending its agreement to aid medical evacuations from Ukraine. Another billion kroner is earmarked for repairs of energy- and other important infrastructure. Most important, according to Huitfeldt, though, is the solidarity with other nations in supporting Ukraine.
“Russia wants to create division among allied countries but our response has been the opposite,” Huitfeldt said as she stood with her fellow foreign ministers aside tanks in downtown Kyiv. “Never before have we been closer to one another, never before has the willingness to protect and fight for our values been stronger. This visit is an important message to the Ukrainian people that they’re not alone. Our solidarity and our support will continue.” She also seemed confident that Ukraine “will win this war.”
The group was moving on to a meeting of all NATO foreign ministers in Bucharest on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then to a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation Europe (OSCE) in Poland on Thursday.