NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has condemned Russia's "brutality" in its recent attacks on Ukraine's civilian infrastructure and has suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin is personally responsible for the "horrific" conditions currently endured by citizens across Ukraine.
"[Putin] is responding with more brutality," Stoltenberg said at a press conference ahead of a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Bucharest on Friday. "Waves of deliberate missile attacks on cities and civilian infrastructure. Depriving Ukrainians of heat, light, and food. This is a horrific start to the winter for Ukraine."
Although Stoltenberg admitted that Europe is currently facing "tough times... with rising energy and food prices", he nevertheless called on Europe's citizenry to remain steadfast in its support for Ukraine — adding that, if Europe's support were to waver now, the consequences would be far worse.
"Yes, we are all paying a price for Russia's war against Ukraine," Stoltenberg said. "But the price we pay is in money. While the price Ukrainians pay is in blood. And if we let Putin win, all of us will pay a much higher price, for many years to come. If Putin and other authoritarian leaders see that force is rewarded, they will use force again to achieve their goals."
A notable omission
During the press conference's Q&A, Stoltenberg, responding to a request for comment regarding the European Parliament's recent decision to label Russia a "state sponsor of terrorism", pointedly declined to label Russia a terrorist state. Instead, he opted to describe Russia's recent attacks on Ukraine's civilian infrastructure as merely "horrific" and a "war crime".
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"On the decision by the European Parliament, I would like to say that what we have seen over now several months are horrific attacks against civilians, residential areas, critical civilian infrastructure, and also against schools and hospitals," Stoltenberg said.
"Intentional targeting of civilian infrastructure and civilians is a war crime... Deliberate attacks on civilians are war crimes and those responsible must be held accountable."
Russian missile attacks on Ukraine's civilian infrastructure in recent weeks have paralysed much of Ukraine's energy grid, and led to widespread fears that many Ukrainians — and particularly the most vulnerable — will not be able to survive the coming winter months.
"Send blankets and generators or we'll freeze to death," Kyiv's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, recently told The Daily Telegraph.