Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Kyiv, February 27, 2023
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1353 GMT:
Ukraine’s military intelligence agency has claimed responsibility for the assassination of Russian proxy politician Mikhail Filiponenko in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine (see 0924 GMT).
The Ukrainian service said it carried out the car bombing with local resistance forces.
Filiponenko was also one of the top commanders in the army of the “Luhansk People’s Republic”.
UPDATE 1350 GMT:
Russian attacks killed three people in the village of Bagatyr, in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, on Wednesday.
Ukraine’s emergency service said the bodies were recovered from under the rubble of a destroyed private house.
UPDATE 1337 GMT:
The UK has imposed sanctions on another 23 individuals and entities, connected with Russia’s oil and gold sectors.
Those sanctioned include two of Russia’s largest gold producers, Nord Gold and Highland Gold Mining; mining magnate Vladislav Sviblov; and tycoon Konstantin Strukov.
A UAE-based network which has sent more than $300 million in gold revenues to Russia has also been designated.
UPDATE 1327 GMT:
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has welcomed the European Commission’s recommendation for the opening of European Union membership talks with Kyiv (see 1156 GMT).
Hailing the “right step in history”, Zelenskiy posted, “Ukrainians deserve this both for their protection of European values, and for the fact that even at times of a full-scale war, we keep our word by developing state institutions.”
Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna added:
‼️EU Commission recommends opening membership talks with Ukraine.
It’s the result of a huge amount of work done by the country in war.
More comments and reflections, including on the next steps, soon.
— Olga Stefanishyna (@StefanishynaO) November 8, 2023
UPDATE 1156 GMT:
The European Commision has recommended the opening of negotiations for Ukraine’s accession to the European Union, once it fulfils outstanding conditions.
A Commission report says Ukraine has fulfilled four of seven conditions:
- Legislation for selection of judges of the Constitutional Court in line with recommendations of the European Commission for Democracy through Law;
- Completion of integrity vetting of candidates for the High Council of Justice and creation of the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine;
- Alignment of anti-money laundering legislation with the standards of the Financial Action Task Force and approval of a strategic plan for reforming law enforcement;
- Alignment of Ukraine’s media legislation with the EU audio-visual media services directive.
The three remaining criteria are the fight against corruption; removal of oligarchs from Ukraine’s economic system; and the protection of national minorities.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday night that the country is “preparing our next steps” to join the bloc, including by strengthening its institutions. He noted that this would require work by Kyiv to “adapt to EU standards”.
Another historic step for the citizens of 🇺🇦🇲🇩🇬🇪🇧🇦 regarding their 🇪🇺 aspirations.
We’ve adopted our 2023 Enlargement Package recommending to open negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, to grant candidate status to Georgia, and to open accession negotiations with Bosnia and… pic.twitter.com/Ipr61YHFSz
— European Commission (@EU_Commission) November 8, 2023
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova — which has endured Russian occupation of part of its territory since 1992:
Moldova has undertaken significant reforms, despite constant destabilisation efforts against its democracy.
The Commission recommends that the Council opens accession negotiations.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 8, 2023
UPDATE 1148 GMT:
The European Union will ban the import of Russian diamonds next Monday, according to its foreign policy head Josep Borrell.
Borrell noted that a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Japan on Tuesday and Wednesday supported the step.
The EU had said on Monday it was waiting for the G7 countries to come up with “some sort of proposal”.
Borrell told the Financial Times:
In order for member states to be unanimous for the ban on diamond trade, some were requesting that the G7 were giving, let’s say, political coverage.
Well, this has been done and the co-ordination has worked and we will be able to put the package of sanctions in front of [EU foreign ministers].
UPDATE 0924 GMT:
A Russian proxy politician, Mikhail Filiponenko, has been killed by a car bomb in the occupied Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine, according to his son and another local politician.
In February, Filipenko’s car was blown up near the offices of the “Joint Center for Control and Coordination” in Luhansk.
UPDATE 0839 GMT:
Striking Polish truckers have completely blocked two border crossings and partially blocked another, says Deputy Infrastructure Minister Serhii Derkach.
The transport of humanitarian cargo, buses, and private vehicles is continuing, albeit at a reduced level.
The protesting truckers are demanding renewed restrictions on the number of Ukrainian trucks permitted in Poland, claiming that business for Polish drivers is being hurt.
Derkach said Ukrainian officials were working with Polish colleagues to resolve the situation.
Polish colleagues confirm that the revocation of permits [for Ukrainian trucks] is one of the key requirements of truckers. For us, it is unacceptable in the conditions of war, with broken logistics chains and a (Black) Sea blockade.
UPDATE 0817 GMT:
France will add €200 million to its Ukraine aid package.
French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said the additional support will ensure the Ukrainian army can continue purchasing French military equipment.
The aid will be part of a budget bill debated in the French Parliament on Wednesday.
UPDATE 0813 GMT:
A US court has indicted seven individuals and three companies for their alleged role in transportation of dual-use technologies to Russia.
The defendants are based in the US, Russia, Canada, and the UAE. They are charged with smuggling, unlicensed export, and filing false reports.
The German investigative project Correctiv find Russian companies are still purchasing firearms and ammunition from Europe and the US, despite sanctions and export restrictions.
The investigation estimates that 7,300 firearms, including more than 100 sniper rifles, and nearly 8 million rounds of ammunition have been imported into Russia.
The imports involve products from US companies Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms, and Desert Tech; Austrian brands such as Glock and Steyr Arms; and Germany’s Merkel Jagd- und Sport Waffen GmbH, Nammo Schönebeck, RWS, Ruag Ammotech, and Blaser.
UPDATE 0726 GMT:
Despite Russia’s invasion and attacks on critical infrastructure, Ukraine’s economy may grow by 1% to 3% in 2023, assesses the International Monetary Fund.
Ukraine’s GDP contracted 29% in 2022 as the country survived the Russian onslaught. But it recorded 2.4% growth in the first quarter of 2023 and continued to expand during the second.
“IMF staff sees overall growth of 1–3 percent for 2023, with some upside risk,” the report concludes.
But the analysts caution:
Despite recent positive outturns, the duration and intensity of the war present a considerable risk to the economic outlook. Medium-term prospects depend on the outcome of the war, the scale of reconstruction spending, return of migrants, structural reforms, and prospects of EU accession.
UPDATE 0705 GMT:
One person has been killed and one injured in Russia’s latest attacks on the Kherson region in southern Ukraine.
Russian troops fired 538 projectiles in 108 assaults with mortars, artillery, unmanned aerial vehicles, tanks, aircraft, and Grad multiple launch rocket systems.
An engineering structure and the grounds of an industrial plant were hit.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Leading officials in the Biden Administration have urged Congress to authorize $11.8 billion in economic and financial aid to Ukraine amid Russia’s 20 1/2-month invasion.
The letter to the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate and House was sent by Treasury Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the Administrator of the Agency for International Development, Samantha Power.
The US has provided almost $50 billion to Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24, 2022.
The Biden Administration included $61.4 billion in additional authorization in a $100 billion request — which also had assistance for Israel and Taiwan and replenishment of defense stocks — to the House last month. It was blocked by hard-right Republicans and Trumpists, as they ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
McCarthy’s successor Mike Johnson is linked to the hard-right/Trumpist rebellion. He has tried to halt the Ukraine support by separating it from aid to Israel in its war with the Gazan organization Hamas.
“We Must Continue to Enable Ukraine’s Self-Defense”
In their letter, the Administration officials explain:
This aggression is not only an existential threat to Ukraine, but also a threat to global democracies and our own economic and national security….
Russia has bet that its aggression can outlast our collective resolve. We and our partners must continue to enable Ukraine’s self-defense, across multiple domains, including economic ones.
They note, “Russia’s economic warfare, including attacks against Ukraine’s grain exports and energy infrastructure, is an integral part of its illegal invasion strategy. If Russia can destroy Ukraine’s economy, it will hobble the Ukrainian state to the point that it cannot defend itself on the battlefield.”
Budget support has allowed Ukraine to continue providing the basic services of government to its people—paying teacher salaries, keeping hospitals and schools open, and supporting its first responders — while devoting all its domestically generated resources to fighting the war. Reducing or delaying direct budget support will imperil Ukraine’s military efforts.
They emphasize, “The Administration’s request of $11.8 billion for direct budget support represents the minimum amount needed to help cover Ukraine’s baseline needs, after accounting for other possible international support.”