The EU commits to double the military aid program for Ukraine | Ursula von der Leyen
The EU has pledged to double a military aid program to Ukraine training an additional 15,000 soldiers as part of a storm of announcements meant to show that it will “support Ukraine for the long haul.”
Speaking at the start of a two-day trip to Kyiv, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyenreiterated that the EU aims to have a tenth package of sanctions against Russia by February 24, the first anniversary of the invasion ordered by Vladimir Putin.
“We are making Putin pay for his heinous war,” he told reporters, on a visit accompanied by 15 EU commissioners, the first time so many EU officials have visited a war zone. “Today Russia it is paying a heavy price as our sanctions are eroding its economy, setting it back a generation.”
President of Ukraine Volodymyr ZelenskyHe said there was a joint task to curb sanctions circumvention, adding: “The more we do it, the closer we get to defeating Russian aggression.”
Vowing to “keep turning up the pressure,” von der Leyen also reiterated that the EU would limit the price of Russian oil products, as part of a broader G7 plan to restrict oil revenues available to the Kremlin war machine. . The G7 and the EU have already agreed on a price cap for crude oil that took effect last December and, according to Von der Leyen, costs Russia 160 million euros (142 million pounds) a day.
The 27 EU member states have yet to agree on the latest oil price cap. Discussions continue on a proposal to set the cap at $100 a barrel for premium oil products and $45 a barrel for discount ones. A diplomatic source said he was confident of a deal before the February 5, agreed deadline.
Working with Ukrainian prosecutors, the EU also intends to establish an international center for the prosecution of the crime of aggression in Ukraine to be located in The Hague, Von der Leyen said. The purpose of this center is to collect and store evidence, for any future trial, whether conducted through a special court or otherwise.
Separately, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced the intention of EU member states to train an additional 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers by 2023, doubling an existing 15,000-soldier training program launched last October. This 45 million euro plan comes alongside another 500 million euros in EU-funded weapons for Ukraine announced on Thursday, bringing the bloc’s total assistance under the European peace mechanism to 3.6 billion euros.
On the eve of the EU visit to Kyiv, Ukraine said that Russia was planning a big military offensive to commemorate the first anniversary of the war. In an interview on French television Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov warned that Russia could call up half a million troops. Referring to Russia’s overall mobilization of 300,000 conscripted troops in September last year, he said numbers at the border suggest the actual size could be closer to 500,000.
“We do not underestimate our enemy,” Reznikov said. “Officially, they announced 300,000, but when we see the troops at the borders, according to our assessments, there are many more.”
On Thursday, two Russian missiles hit the eastern city of Kramatorsk, causing as yet unknown civilian casualties, local officials said. Two people were killed by Russian shelling in the southern Kherson region.
Those strikes came after a Russian missile attack on a residential building in Kramatorsk on Wednesday night killed at least three people and injured 20 others.
Von der Leyen and Borrell arrived in Kyiv under tight security on Thursday to meet with the Ukrainian government and 14 other EU commissioners.
The highly symbolic visit was intended not only as a show of support, but also encouragement as Ukraine attempts to join the EU at unprecedented speed. Ukraine’s government has expressed hope of joining the EU within two years, but most member states think the process will take many years, if not decades.
Von der Leyen will remain in Kyiv on Friday for an EU-Ukraine summit, the first since the Russian invasion.
Amid a storm of announcements, von der Leyen said the EU would supply Ukraine with 35m LED bulbs, 2,400 generators on top of the 3,000 already delivered and promised funds for solar panels to power the country’s public buildings. According to Brussels officials, the EU institutions and its 27 member states have given Ukraine 50 billion euros worth of support, plus 10 billion euros for the 8 million refugees who have fled to Europe.
The EU also wants to speed up Ukraine’s integration into its single market and help the country make the transition to green energy.
EU officials are working closely with their Ukrainian counterparts on the bloc’s 10th sanctions package against Russia, which is expected to include weapons and technology found on the battlefield that have been lost in previous rounds. With the Russian economy already under heavy sanctions, diplomats do not expect a major expansion of economic restrictions; lucrative sectors such as Russian diamond exports Y nuclear industry they are likely to remain intact.
The EU is also looking into the legally charged question of how it can use Russian assets to help pay for the rising cost of rebuilding Ukraine, estimated by the World Bank last September at €349bn (£312bn). “Russia will also have to pay for the destruction it caused and will have to contribute to the reconstruction of Ukraine,” von der Leyen said.
In the talks between the European Commission and the government of Ukraine, two of the three von der Leyen deputies participated, Margrethe Vestager, who leads digital policy regulation, and Valdis Dombrovskis, who is in charge of trade policy, as well as officials leading the rule of law, environment, justice, agriculture and financial regulation.
EU officials have tried to avoid any emulation of Zelenskiy’s military-style clothing among the visiting delegation. Before the meeting, commissioners were advised to wear “regular business attire…avoiding green, khaki or overly bright colours,” according to an internal memo seen by The Guardian.