The United States has accused Russia of wanting to “freeze” Ukraine into submission since it has failed to triumph on the battlefield, as Moscow pushed ahead with moving thousands of civilians out of the Russian-occupied Kherson region.
Since Kyiv’s forces have advanced against the invading troops in the east and south of Ukraine, Russia has repeatedly rained missiles and explosive drones onto Ukrainian infrastructure.
Keep readinglist of 3 items
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday Russia’s campaign against Ukraine’s energy network had left about 4.5 million people without power.
“President (Vladimir) Putin seems to have decided that if he can’t seize Ukraine by force, he will try to freeze it into submission,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday after G7 foreign ministers met in Germany.
The West pledged to assist Ukraine to rebuild after the damage caused by Moscow’s attacks.
The top diplomats from the club of rich nations agreed on a structure to funnel aid to Ukraine to replace infrastructure which Russia hit after they held two days of talks in Muenster.
The US, which has already committed more than $18.2bn of security aid to Ukraine since the invasion began in February, is also examining options to address the damage.
The Pentagon announced on Friday the US is sending Ukraine $400m more in military aid and establishing a security assistance headquarters in Germany that will oversee weapons transfers and military training for Ukraine
The aid also includes contracts for 1,100 Phoenix Ghost drones, funding to refurbish 45 tanks and an additional 40 riverine boats.
The Phoenix Ghost drone is an armed “kamikaze drone” that explodes on contact with its target.
US President Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Friday to reaffirm US support to Ukraine.
Sullivan told a news conference in Kyiv that Ukraine had an “acute need for air defence in this critical moment”.
As an impending Ukrainian offensive looms in the south, Moscow continued to pull civilians out of the Kherson region, with Putin saying residents must be “removed” from danger zones.
The Russian army said “more than 5,000 civilians” were being led across the Dnieper River every day, showing footage of soldiers directing lines of cars onto flotillas crossing over to the river’s eastern bank.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify the claims.
Moscow’s forces began urging tens of thousands of civilians to leave Kherson in mid-October, swearing to turn the region’s main city of the same name into a fortress.
Kyiv has likened the departures to Soviet-style “deportations” of its people.
“Those who live in Kherson should be removed from zones of dangerous fighting,” Putin said on Red Square as he marked Russian Unity Day, a patriotic holiday.
“The civilian population should not suffer from shelling, an offensive, a counteroffensive or other such things,” he said.
A Kherson resident told the Associated Press news agency that Russian soldiers were installing themselves in vacated apartments.
Russian military personnel were going door to door, checking property deeds and forcing tenants to leave immediately if they could not prove ownership of apartments, he said.
“They’re forcing city residents to evacuate, and then Russian soldiers move into freed-up apartments across all of Kherson,” the resident, who spoke on condition that only his first name – Konstantin – was used for security reasons.
“It is obvious that they are preparing for fighting the Ukrainian army in the city.”
Ukraine’s southern military spokeswoman, Natalia Humeniuk, told Ukrainian television that some Russian military personnel were disguising themselves as civilians.
The claims could not be independently verified.