Irish MEP says Ukraine needs our support in restoring electricity infrastructure

An Irish MEP has highlighted the need to support Ukraine in generating electricity as Russian missiles continue to target civilian infrastructure
Irish MEP says Ukraine needs our support in restoring electricity infrastructure

James Cox

An Irish MEP has highlighted the need to support Ukraine in generating electricity as Russian missiles continue to target civilian infrastructure.

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher was in Ukraine for the third time since the Russian invasion on February 24th this week, and he visited an electricity plant targeted by Russian drones along with a modular housing facility.

Mr Kelleher told BreakingNews.ie: "Electricity supply is a huge problem, the Russians are targeting electricity supplies. We visited an electricity generating station right in the middle of Kyiv that was targeted by Russian missiles. There were no military installations anywhere near, it is clearly Russia targeting electricity infrastructure to damage civilian morale, to force more people to flee to Western countries in the European Union.

"There is that very insidious, disgusting war crime element still happening in Kyiv and the surrounding areas.

"The electricity stations that they targeted in Kyiv which we visited were 500-600km from the frontline, so there could be no justification or no claim that there is any military involvement in terms of the war itself.

"This has been Vladimir Putin's strategy for the last year, so we weren't surprised when we saw that. To see that targeting firsthand reinforces what Putin and the Russian army are at in terms of targeting civilian infrastructure."

Fianna Fáil is part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and Mr Kelleher, along with his colleague Senator Timmy Dooley, met with "Ukrainian politicians, community groups and voluntary organisations".

Servant of the People, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy's party, is also part of ALDE.

"What is amazing is the resilience of people. When I visited last March and then in April, you could see determination in what they were doing, in what they said about their resistance to the Russian invasion and occupation.

"They are so determined still and very committed to the point where they're talking about liberating their territories, they're also actively talking about the need to plan with Europe in terms of reconstruction; how they get their infrastructure back, how they get their homes back, how they get people back from Europe to Ukraine.

"There is a real determination in terms of the war to see this through but equally on top of that there's huge optimism and focus on the belief that Ukraine will win the war, and they should be planning for that eventuality in terms of infrastructure, housing and all that follows in repairing the damage."

Mr Kelleher added: "Not in a naive way, they understand that Russia has a big army with a lot of weapons, and a lot of resources, but they are determined. They are putting up a huge resistance and have liberated vast tracts of the country already... on top of that they are focused on the need for rebuilding and rehousing."

Mr Kelleher also visited a temporary modular housing project, which is currently housing 400 people.

He praised the development, which was initially used for members of the Polish military, but pointed out that it also underlines the need for additional capacity to generate electricity as people are going without heating and warm water.

"We're interested and that's why we went to look to see where the European Union can help in terms of providing temporary modular accommodation in western Ukraine to house people while their own homes and apartment blocks are being rebuilt, or for people coming to escape the heavy fighting in regions like Donetsk and Luhansk.

"That's something we should look at, a lot of people leaving Ukraine is because there is no accommodation for them there, they've bombed out homes, electricity is gone, and temporary modular accommodation is something which will assist.

"There are eight million people when you include those internally displaced and in European countries, so there are vast numbers of people but everything helps and a lot of people want to stay in Ukraine, but they can't because there's no accommodation for them.

Generators of Hope

"The EU has launched a programme called Generators of Hope and that's something we are trying to get more focused on so that countries will be able to do an assessment of what generators they can gather up through donations or through their own electricity systems... maybe having surplus or older generators or transformers.

"We visited a modular housing scheme with 400 people there, another 200 to come in the next number of days. The difficulty is they only have electricity for a number of hours per day, it's generator capacity, so they have two generators, and they're small... so they have to heat and serve sections of this housing programme on a rolling basis.

"Even if they got five or six more generators it would mean they could have electricity all the time. Most of these people were elderly people and seeing them struggling through the day with no heat or prospect of warm water is terrible to watch, but we can resolve it because Europe has a lot of spare capacity in terms of generation... we're coming out of the winter now.

"We don't need all of those generators for the foreseeable number of months, and it's something we're asking the EU to look at

"We visited refurbished apartment blocks, but they still only had electricity for two to four hours a day so while the windows had been put in, it would be comfortable with electricity, but they don't have it for long periods each day."

Mr Kelleher was one of the MEPs who pushed for sanctions on Russia early on after the invasion, and he reiterated his view on the importance of holding Russia and affiliates including the Wagner Group to account.

He also said Russian Central Bank assets should be seized and used to support Ukraine.

"We also have to look at sanctions on people working closely with Putin, the Wagner mercenary group. We should be looking at the Central Bank reserves that have been frozen... we should look at seizing them and establishing a tribunal on Russia's aggression and war crimes. There is a lot of work to do yet.

"We were slow, there was too much division in Europe initially, but now we know we can live without Russian gas and are not hostages to Putin's threat of freezing Europe and making citizens suffer.

"Europe is strong and if we work together we can squeeze Putin and his war machine and the broader economy to make sure he can't fund what is going on at the moment.

"Ukraine has recorded 67,000 incidents of varying war crimes from attacks on civilians, execution of civilians, damage to schools, all war crimes under international law. We have to hold Russia and Putin to account."

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