European Union officials pledged on Friday (3 February) their unwavering support for Ukraine in rebuilding its infrastructure in response to Russia’s ongoing war, while the United States announced a new round of security aid worth more than $2 billion. European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attend the 24th EU-Ukraine Summit in Kyiv and meet with Ukrainian President Volakir Volodymyr Zelenskyy met. EU officials said the bloc would support Ukraine “whenever it is needed”.
In a joint statement on Friday, EU officials pledged to help rebuild Ukraine’s damaged critical infrastructure, providing energy support and services to get the country “through the winter” and beyond. So far, the EU and its member states have provided aid worth $570 million in energy and reconstruction, and an additional $525 million in humanitarian aid, they said. Officials emphasized their commitment to facilitate Ukraine’s membership of the European Union, but they made no promises to fast-track Ukraine’s membership.
Kyiv applied for EU membership shortly after the Russian invasion and hoped to start formal accession talks as soon as possible. “There is no strict timetable, but there are some goals that you have to achieve,” Von der Leyen said at a news conference in response to a question about promoting Ukraine’s accession to the European Union. One of the conditions for Ukraine’s accession to the European Union is to fight corruption. Von der Leyen also praised Kyiv for stepping up efforts to fight corruption.
Michel and von der Leyen condemned Russia’s escalating war against Ukraine and its citizens, calling it “a flagrant violation of international law, including the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” They emphasized the need for a special court in The Hague to investigate and prosecute Ukraine’s war crimes.
In addition, EU officials announced the 10th tranche of sanctions against Russia. Von der Leyen said the sanctions targeted trade and technology that supported Russia’s war against Ukraine. “We must work with our partners to deny Russia the means to kill Ukrainian civilians and destroy homes and offices,” she said in a tweet.
U.S. defense aid
The U.S. announced on Friday that it would provide Ukraine with an additional $2.175 billion worth of military aid, including conventional and long-range rockets for U.S.-supplied HIMARs, as well as other munitions and weapons. The longer-range, precision-guided rockets will allow Ukraine to double the range of Ukrainian counterattacks for the first time since the Russian invasion, a U.S. official said.
Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said at a news conference Friday that the aid package includes “helping Ukraine defend its people’s critical air defense capabilities, as well as armored infantry vehicles and more that Ukraine is effectively using, These include Javelin anti-tank missiles and artillery ammunition.”
Ryder added, “We will be supplying Ukraine with the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) as part of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) program. Friday’s aid package opened the door for more GLSDB deliveries, which have a range of 94 miles (151 kilometers), according to a document seen by Reuters.
GLSDB is used for the “Hippocampus” high-mobility multiple rocket launcher that the United States has provided to the Ukrainian army. Its range is twice that of the “Hippocampus” rockets currently used by the Ukrainian army. It will enable all Russian supply lines in eastern Ukraine and Parts of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, to be within range of Ukrainian forces.
In November, Reuters first reported that Boeing had proposed equipping Ukraine with the GLSDB. At that time, Ukraine expected that it would be possible to obtain this ammunition in the spring. GLSDB is jointly manufactured by Boeing of the United States and SAAB AB of Sweden.
The Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative empowers the US to procure weapons from defense companies, rather than draw equipment from DoD stockpiles for delivery. The announcement of this aid represents the beginning of the contract process to supply additional weapons to the Ukrainian Armed Forces as part of the U.S.’s immediate and long-term efforts to strengthen the Ukrainian military.
The Defense Department reports that the U.S. has now provided nearly $30 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the Biden administration. The United States has committed more than $32 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014, and more than $29.3 billion since Russia began its unprovoked full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022.
Prisoners recruited by Wagner Group
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense said on Friday that the number of prisoners recruited by the Wagner Group had fallen sharply. The number of prisoners at the Russian Federal Prison Service has fallen by 6,000 since November, the ministry said. This compares to the 23,000 reductions reported by the MoD between September 2022 and November 2022.
The Ministry of Defense said: “Wagner’s recruitment is likely to be a major factor in this decrease.” At least eight civilians have been killed and 29 others wounded in Russian shelling of Ukraine over the past day, the Ukrainian president’s office said.