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EU takes stock of Ukraine support as new refugee exodus beckons

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Lorne Cook, AP

European Union leaders are gathering to take stock of their support for Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russia is trying to spark a refugee exodus by destroying his war-ravaged country’s energy infrastructure.

Nearly eight months into the war, Russia is increasingly targeting Ukraine’s power stations, waterworks and other key infrastructure with missile and drone strikes.

Meanwhile, the EU is struggling with the fallout of having to urgently end its reliance on Russian gas and oil as the war fuels price hikes and market anxiety.

In a speech via video link to European leaders in Brussels on Thursday, Mr Zelensky said that “attacks by Russian cruise missiles and Iranian combat drones have destroyed more than a third of our energy infrastructure.

“Because of this, unfortunately we are no longer able to export electricity to help you maintain stability.”

He added: “Russia also provokes a new wave of migration of Ukrainians to EU countries,” by attacking electricity and heating sources, “so that as many Ukrainians as possible move to your countries.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has branded Russia’s attacks on civilian infrastructure as “war crimes” and “acts of pure terror”.

More than 4.3 million Ukrainian citizens have registered for temporary protection in the EU. Almost a third of them are being hosted in Poland alone.

In a draft of an EU summit statement, the leaders affirm that they “will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes” with continued political, military and economic support.

They also say that the 27-nation bloc will “step up its humanitarian response, in particular for winter preparedness.”

The draft text, seen by the Associated Press, is expected to be adopted later on Friday but its precise wording could still change.

The EU is deeply divided over how to handle the arrival of migrants without authorisation – the issue lies at the heart of one of the bloc’s biggest ever political crises – but many countries, particularly in central and eastern Europe, have set aside their objections to massively welcome in war refugees from Ukraine.

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