BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders on Friday gave the green light to a plan to provide Ukraine with 18 billion euros (dollars) in financial support over the next year, after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Russia is trying to spark a refugee exodus by destroying his country’s energy infrastructure.
The plan, endorsed at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels, would see the 27-nation bloc match U.S. financial support for war-ravaged Ukraine in monthly installments.
“Ukraine is telling us that they need approximately 3-4 billion euros per month to have enough resources for the basics,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. She said that figure would be met in equal part by the EU and the U.S., plus additional money from international financial institutions.
“It is very important to Ukraine to have a predictable and stable flow of income,” von der Leyen told reporters. She said the EU is looking to provide about 1.5 billion euros each month, describing it as a funding amount that would be “stable and reliable.”
The bloc’s finance ministers have been tasked with coming up with a system for pulling together the money, which would come on top of the 9 billion euros in macro-financing support that the EU is already sending.
Von der Leyen also slammed Russia’s “atrocious and deliberate” attacks on civilians and infrastructure. Nearly eight months into the war, Russia has increasingly targeted Ukraine’s power stations, waterworks and other key infrastructure with missile and drone strikes.
In a speech to the leaders via video link on Thursday, Zelenskyy said that “attacks by Russian cruise missiles and Iranian combat drones have destroyed more than a third of our energy infrastructure.”
The president 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.”
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas described the targeting of civilian infrastructure as “pure terrorism.”
Russia’s attacks are meant to “make us afraid. It is to make us refrain from the decisions that we would otherwise make, and this is awful that it is possible to do this in the year 2022,” Kallas told reporters.
Her Latvian counterpart, Krisjanis Karins, added: “Russia’s war is becoming ever more brutal, now blatantly aimed not at the Ukrainian military but at Ukrainian citizens.”
More than 4.3 million Ukrainian citizens have registered for temporary protection in the EU. Poland is hosting almost almost a third of them.
In a summit statement, the EU leaders affirmed that they “will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes” with continued political, military and economic support. They also said that the bloc will “step up its humanitarian response, in particular for winter preparedness.”
The EU is deeply divided over how to handle the arrival of migrants without authorization, an issue that lies at the heart of one of the bloc’s biggest-ever political crises. But many countries, particularly in central and eastern Europe, so far have set aside their objections to welcome large numbers of war refugees from Ukraine.
The leaders also warned Belarus against helping Russia in the war. Ukraine’s military leaders said this week that Russia is deploying aircraft and troops to Belarus and that Russian forces could attack from there to cut supply routes for Western weapons and equipment.
“The Belarusian regime must fully abide by its obligations under international law. The European Union remains ready to move quickly with further sanctions against Belarus,” the summit statement said.