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European energy companies are being urged to donate essential equipment to Ukraine to help repair the grid that has been damaged by Russia’s invasion, the leading international energy organization coordinating efforts told CNN on Wednesday.
In a statement, Energy Community said it has been assisting Ukraine by coordinating donations of specialized equipment to repair the infrastructure damaged in attacks by Russia.
“This month, seven energy equipment shipments coordinated by the Secretariat in cooperation with the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC) have reached Ukraine,” said Artur Lorkowski, tthe Director of the Energy Community Secretariat.
“This includes much needed tools, fuses, welding electrodes, elcometers, generators and other electricity and gas equipment donated by companies from Estonia, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Sweden, Slovakia and Lithuania," the director added.
Since the start of the war, 37 shipments from 20 countries have been delivered to Ukraine, the statement said and 47 more deliveries are underway.
The international energy organization said its primary mandate is to help Ukraine and other countries in the European Union’s region to reform their energy sectors.
The Biden administration is considering a dramatic expansion in the training the US military provides to Ukrainian forces, including instructing as many as 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers a month at a US base in Germany, according to multiple US officials.
If adopted, the proposal would mark a significant increase not just in the number of Ukrainians the US trains but also in the type of training they receive. Since the start of the conflict in February, the US has trained only a few thousand Ukrainian soldiers, mostly in small groups, on specific weapons systems.
Under the new program, the US would begin training much larger groups of Ukrainian soldiers in more sophisticated battlefield tactics, including how to coordinate infantry maneuvers with artillery support — "much more intense and comprehensive" training than Ukraine has been receiving in Poland or the UK, according to one source briefed on the proposal.
The proposal, which was made at the behest of Ukraine, is still under inter-agency review by the administration. News of its existence comes more than nine months into Russia's invasion of Ukraine and as the onset of winter is expected to slow military operations.
A senior Biden administration official declined to comment on the specifics of the planning, telling CNN that "we won't get ahead of decisions that haven't been made, but we are constantly looking for ways to make sure the Ukrainians have the skills they need to succeed on the battlefield as Ukraine defends their territory from Russian aggression."
A grinding war of attrition: How decisive so-called "combined arms training" is likely to be on the battlefield remains an open question because the war has primarily been fought as a grinding war of attrition between two artillery armies, said Mike Kofman, an expert on the Russian and Ukrainian militaries at the Center for Naval Analyses.
"It's a good idea because they [Ukraine] need all the training they can get," Kofman said. But the primary variable on the battlefield right now is the availability of ammunition on both sides, he said. "The Ukrainians aren't going to be as effective at combined arms maneuvers if they don't have enough artillery ammunition."
US European Command declined to comment.
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CNN's Zachary Cohen and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.
Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner Group has played a prominent role in the conflict in Ukraine, has demanded that Russian businesses allow employees time to train at the private Russia military group's camps.
In a statement from his Concord Group, Prigozhin — who is also known as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “chef” — said that "many volunteer militiamen, especially from the Belgorod and Kursk regions, are currently receiving military training at Wagner PMC bases."
"Unfortunately, some businesses where these volunteer militia members work are preventing them from taking short-term leave for training purposes," he continued.
Again going on the offensive against parts of the Russian state, Prigozhin said these companies were "state-owned, owned by big business players who live far from the Kursk and Belgorod Regions (usually somewhere in Moscow.)"
"Consider this an open appeal to the owners of big business whose employees are trying to get training that will allow them to defend their homeland. Please be kind and stop preventing volunteer militia members from getting training leave; otherwise the names of your businesses, the names of directors and other executives will be made public," he said.
Prigozhin has adopted an increasingly populist tone as the conflict has worn on, accusing parts of the Russian establishment of insufficient support for the Russian military and criticizing the defense ministry for poor organization.
Earlier on Wednesday, CNN reported that US President Joe Biden's administration is considering designating the Wagner Group as a foreign terrorist organization amid ongoing efforts to impose costs on Russia for the Ukraine war, according to a US official.
More about the Wagner Group: The mercenary firm has been heavily involved in the fighting in Ukraine. The group is often described as Putin’s off-the-books troops. It has expanded its footprint globally since its creation in 2014. The group has been accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said it's imperative that NATO supply Ukraine quickly as the war continues.
"You need to be with us not just as long as it takes, but also supply us with everything required as fast as it is required," Kuleba said.
Kuleba has been attending the NATO and G7 meetings in Bucharest.
"I've thanked all the states here, who said they will stand with Ukraine as long as needed. It is a very significant sign for us, as we did not have such unanimous support on this point before," he said.
Kuleba also welcomed new equipment.
"These are transformers, generators, weapons, winter uniforms. I cannot talk about all of it, but there are also 155mm artillery, shells, armored vehicles among these. All this will soon be delivered to Ukraine and strengthen our armed forces," he said.
Speaking about the US Patriot air defense system, Kuleba said, "Until now nobody would talk about this issue, except us. We were the only one to raise it. But now this issue is being discussed. This is a very serious and substantive discussion."
On Tuesday, CNN reported that the US is considering sending the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine to support their air defense capabilities against incoming Russian attacks, according to a senior US defense official.
Kuleba said he had urged a change of approach by Ukraine's western donors, which was now paying off.
"Now everything is being supplied," he said. "These decisions have been taken after some kind of tragedy took place on the frontline, which left no other choice but for this decision to be taken. I said: 'Change your logics. Do not wait for something bad to happen. Take this decision now in order to prevent the tragedies, to act more proactive and liberate more Ukrainian territories and Ukrainian citizens.'"
On infrastructure: Kuleba also met with G7 foreign ministers about aid for restoring Ukraine's heavily damaged infrastructure, as some 30% of power capacity currently disabled.
"The first option is to buy electricity in the EU. But prices on the EU market are much higher than in Ukraine, so additional financial support will be needed," he said. Another option is to source the necessary energy equipment, transformers and generators that will help alleviate energy shortfalls, he said.
The United States is among several countries pledging fresh aid to assist with repairing power infrastructure damaged by Russian missile attacks.
The Ukrainian President's Office has welcomed a proposal by the president of the European Commission to establish a specialized court to prosecute Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.
"The European Commission offers to create a special court for the prosecution of crimes of the Russian federation in Ukraine, as well as conditions for the use of frozen Russian assets for the restoration of Ukraine," Andriy Yermak, head of the president of Ukraine's office, said on Telegram.
"This is exactly what we have been offering for a long time. Russia will pay for crimes and destruction," he said.
In a statement Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “while continuing to support the International Criminal Court, we are proposing to set up a specialized court, backed by the United Nations, to investigate and prosecute Russia's crime of aggression.”
The recently liberated southern Ukrainian city of Kherson and the surrounding towns continue to be shelled, according to the city’s regional military administration.
“Russian occupiers do not stop shelling Ukrainian troops and localities on the west bank of the Dnipro river,” the administration said on Telegram.
The administration and its head, Yarsolav Yanushevych named the towns struck — Beryslav, Naftohavan, Kizomys, Antonivka, Dariivka, Sadove and Zelenivka – which are all along the western bank of the Dnipro River.
The Ukrainians said Russian forces are targeting Naftohavan in particular to “hit power lines and gas distribution station.” The town has an oil loading terminal that can clearly be seen on maps.
Yanushevych added that three residents were injured and a 70-year-old woman was killed.
Despite the continuing hardships for residents, some basic services are coming back online more regularly, including water. The administration described the power supply as “intermittent.” Mobile communications are available with “interruptions,” but the internet is working.
Water is also appearing around the city “due to the supply of power to pumping stations” but the water is being supplied with a reduced pressure.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that its forces have made a breakthrough in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. It comes after at least five civilians were killed by strikes there on Tuesday, according to officials.
Catch up on the top headlines you might have missed:
- Energy situation: Ukraine's Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said that without any more waves of air strikes, "in the short term we will be able to stabilize and reduce the duration of the outage." He said that while there would still be outages, the aim was to make them as planned as possible. Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s state-run energy operator, said Wednesday that the country's energy deficit stood at 27% as of 11 a.m. local time. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that while the second winter season of the war "will be very challenging," 70% of power needs have been met.
- NATO and US support: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Russian President Vladimir Putin's targeting of Ukraine civilians "barbaric." On Tuesday, the United States government pledged more than $50 million dollars in equipment to support Ukraine’s electrical system. Blinken said the United States is also “very focused” on providing air defense systems to Ukraine. Additionally, NATO is looking to invest in Soviet-era weapon systems used in Ukraine, Blinken said.
- Strikes in Donetsk: At least five civilians were killed in Russian strikes in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, according to a Ukrainian military official. Some of the fiercest fighting in eastern Ukraine is taking place around Bakhmut, which has been besieged for months by Russian forces.
- Kherson evacuations: At least 2,500 civilians have left Kherson to other safe regions around Ukraine, according to the Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories. The deputy prime minister of Ukraine added that people leaving will receive “cash payments” when they arrive at train station.
- Explosion at Ukrainian embassy: An explosive device has gone off at the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid, according to the Spanish National Police. One person is slightly injured after handling a letter which was addressed to Ambassador Serhii Pohoreltsev, the Spanish foreign ministry said.
- The Wagner Group: US President Joe Biden's administration is considering designating the Wagner Group, a Russian private military group, as a foreign terrorist organization amid ongoing efforts to impose costs on Russia for the Ukraine war, a US official said. The Wagner Group is a mercenary firm that has been heavily involved in the fighting in Ukraine. The group is often described as President Vladimir Putin’s off-the-books troops. The group has been accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.
- Latest on the Paul Whelan case: Paul Whelan, an American wrongfully detained in Russia, has reportedly been moved to a prison hospital and has been unable to contact his family for a week, according to his brother. The lack of communication has raised serious concerns for the family, said David Whelan, who questioned the penal colony's claim that his brother was transferred to the hospital. A US State Department spokesperson said they are aware of the reports. The Biden administration has been working to secure the release of Paul and another American wrongfully detained in Russia, US women's basketball star Brittney Griner.
US National Security adviser Jake Sullivan briefed key bipartisan senators on the Ukraine war effort in a secure room in the US Capitol Visitors Center on Wednesday.
The briefing was for the top four senate leaders as well as chairs and ranking members of Armed Services, Intelligence, Foreign Relations committees and an appropriations subcommittee.
Departing the meeting, senators said it was a detailed briefing on all aspects on the war effort.
Republican Sen. Jim Risch, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee said of the administration's approach to the war that "I would do things a little differently… but they are committed deeply, they’re working closely with our allies and they’ve got contingency plans for things that might go awry."
He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin is counting on the American people getting tired of the war and "if we don't sustain, that would not be in the interest of America or the world.
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said it was "in depth" briefing on the war effort but there was not any discussion on additional funding needs.