EU to send more military support to Ukraine

Under a plan drawn up by Josep Borrell, EU states would get financial incentives worth €1 billion to send more of their artillery rounds to Ukraine…reports Asian Lite News

European Union countries on Wednesday agreed to speed up supplies of artillery rounds and buy more shells to help Ukraine but still have to work out how to turn these aims into reality.

Under a plan drawn up by foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, EU states would get financial incentives worth €1 billion ($1.06 billion) to send more of their artillery rounds to Ukraine while another €1 billion would fund joint procurement of new shells.

“There has been a general agreement on this procedure but there are questions pending. Everything has to be discussed in detail,” Borrell said after a meeting of EU defense ministers in Stockholm also attended by their Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov.

Borrell said he hoped the plan would be finalized at a meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers on March 20.

However, Reznikov had urged the ministers in Stockholm to support an Estonian plan for EU countries to come together to buy one million 155mm shells this year at a cost of €4 billion to help Ukraine fight Russia’s invasion and launch a counter-offensive.

Borrell’s plan is smaller in scale but would still be a landmark step for the EU as defense procurement has largely been the preserve of the bloc’s individual member governments.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited top US lawmaker Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, to visit Ukraine as doubts over support for Kyiv’s war efforts simmer in Congress, particularly among conservatives.

Zelenskyy proposed the visit in an interview with CNN, which will be broadcast later Wednesday.

” McCarthy, he has to come here to see how we work, what’s happening here, what war caused us, which people are fighting now, who are fighting now. And then after that, make your assumptions,” Zelenskyy said.

“I think that Speaker McCarthy, he never visited Kyiv or Ukraine, and I think it would help him with his position,” the Ukrainian leader said.

But McCarthy told CNN that he does not need to visit Ukraine to understand the situation.

While McCarthy has not opposed the aid, he has said more than once that Congress should not be writing “blank checks” to support the war without close scrutiny.

Massive explosions reported across country Ukraine

Russia unleashed a massive missile barrage on cities across Ukraine early Thursday, targeting energy infrastructure facilities in the first attack on such a scale in three weeks.

Ukrainian officials said residential buildings were hit but didn’t immediately say if there were casualties. At least two people were injured in Kyiv after an explosion, according to the city’s mayor.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Europe, is also reportedly “without electricity” after a Russian strike.

The barrage comes as the owner of Russia’s Wagner Group military contractor claimed that his troops have extended their gains in the Ukrainian stronghold of Bakhmut.

The battle for Bakhmut has lasted six months and reduced the city with a pre-war population of more than 70,000 to a soldering wasteland.

Russian forces need the city to push further into parts of the Donetsk province they do not yet control. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that if Bakhmut fell, Moscow would gain an “open road” for offensives deeper into the country.

Western officials say that the capture of the city is unlikely to change the course of the war.

On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that the city may fall into Russian hands in the coming days.

“What we see is that Russia is throwing more troops, more forces and what Russia lacks in quality they try to make up in quantity,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Stockholm.

“They have suffered big losses, but at the same time, we cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days.”

The head of the military alliance insisted “it is also important to highlight that this does not necessarily reflect any turning point of the war.

“It just highlights that we should not underestimate Russia. We must continue to provide support to Ukraine,” he said.

Meanwhile, Visiting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have called for the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which expires on March 18.

This is the UN chief’s third visit to Kiev since Russia launched its ongoing full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

On July 22, 2022, Russia and Ukraine separately signed a document in Istanbul with Turkey and the UN to allow Ukraine and Russia to export grain and fertilizer to ensure supplies to global markets amid the Russia-Ukraine war.

The deal, due to expire on November 19, 2022, was extended for another 120 days. The UN chief has repeatedly called for the deal’s further extension.

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