By Lourdes Velasco
Kyiv, May 18 (EFE).- Ukraine needs more support from its European partners to facilitate gas and diesel supplies to the country, where shortages are causing long lines of cars at petrol stations, the Ukrainian infrastructure minister said.
In an interview with Efe from the government facilities in Kyiv published on Wednesday, Oleksandr Kubrakov said his government was prioritizing the reconstruction of domestic infrastructure to facilitate the internal distribution of goods and exports after Russian forces destroyed over 300 bridges and several ports.
“The key infrastructural objects which were targeted, were first of all railways, and main highways and bridges. More than 300 bridges were destroyed during these almost three months of the war,” Kubrakov told Efe.
“This is a problem for us because even in released regions (that have been taken back from Russia) it is a bit complicated to rebuild all the bridges and in parallel to improve transport connectivity,” the minister added.
Damaged infrastructure has hampered efforts to distribute goods and to export products to Ukraine’s partners, while long queues in ports have left ships unable to offload their cargo in a timely manner.
Kubrakov said his team had prioritized the rebuilding of bridges and key roads because “we need to renew our logistic channels” and without that infrastructure, recovery “will be almost impossible.”
“I am talking only about bridges because we understand that without this our released cities will be like islands without connection,” he added.
Ukraine is currently suffering from a lack of oil and diesel imports and, as a result, most gas stations have had their output capped to 10 liters per car.
As demand for fuel soars and European nations attempt to build up reserves amid sanctions on Moscow that have limited supply, Kubrakov called on the international community to assist Ukraine with ensuring at least a year’s worth of supplies.
“We understand that the situation with the fuel market in Europe is complicated,” Kubrakov said. “But at the same time our situation right now is more complicated because we are in a war.”
The minister said ships carrying diesel for Ukraine were blocked in some of the nation’s closest sea ports in Constanta in Romania and Gdansk in Poland.
“Many ships (…) are waiting sometimes two weeks, one week, ten days in order just to get to the port. If there was the possibility, over the next months, to allow our ships to receive access to the ports in a faster way, it would be great.”
Backed-up ports are a massive issue given that 80% of Ukraine exports leave the country through the Black Sea.
The government is working on reconfiguring logistical routes to the West via Poland by road and by increasing the capacity of railway lines.
Such projects usually take years to develop, but “we are trying to do this exercise in months,” Kubrakov said.
Before the war, the Ukrainian government had championed a major construction plan to modernize the country, which, the minister admits, has now come to a complete standstill.
“Priority number one is the army and all expenses related to the war,” Kubrakov said.
Part of those efforts are currently being focused on rebuilding roads around Kharkiv, where Russian forces recently withdrew from, to facilitate the delivery of hardware, to resupply troops and to evacuate wounded soldiers from the frontline.
“There are several roads that are crucial for them to deliver their goals, their forces, and injured people,” he explained.