By Max Hunder
KYIV (Reuters) -The European Union is exploring ways to increase help for Ukraine's energy sector following "cruel and inhumane" Russian attacks that have caused widespread power cuts, EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said on Tuesday.
Visiting Kyiv to show solidarity with Ukraine after Russia stepped up its missile strikes on Ukrainian power facilities in recent weeks, Simson said foreign companies should be urged to prioritise the transfer of energy equipment to Ukraine.
Russian attacks left many Ukrainians without electricity or water on Monday, and rolling power cuts have been introduced to save energy while engineers carry out repairs.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Simson that Russia's "energy terrorism" had seriously damaged about 40% of Ukraine's energy infrastructure.
"Russia's bombing of (Ukraine's) infrastructure is clearly a tactic to increase human suffering," Simson told a news conference in the Ukrainian capital alongside Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko.
She said Ukraine needed specific equipment and tools to repair damage to its energy infrastructure, and that she had told Zelenskiy the EU was "reaching out to partners to help with the dedicated support needed."
Russia's attacks were "cruel and inhumane, but not surprising," Simson said, adding on Twitter that she was "making all efforts to increase financial, technical & practical help."
The additional help will have to come from EU institutions, member states, international partners and private donors, she said.
Simson indicated the EU's ability to rapidly provide all the spare parts Ukraine needs may be limited, but said that the 27-member bloc would do all it could to provide equipment.
"The need for spare parts is so big that there is no storage available to deliver them on the spot," she said.
She also said the situation at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine was "dangerously irresponsible." Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of shelling around the plant.
Zelenskiy said on the Telegram messaging app that he and Simson had had a "meaningful meeting".
"We discussed further steps to ensure Ukraine's energy security, as well as the issue of strengthening energy sanctions against the Russian Federation," he said without giving details.
(Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold and Kate Abnett in Brussels, Editing by Angus MacSwan and Timothy Heritage)