4th Mar 2024

EU puts pressure on US to release $60bn for Ukraine

  • Russian tanks shelled the homes Novohryhorivka in March 2022. Two years on, many remain in ruins (Photo: EUobserver)
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The EU is demanding the United States to unblock billions in support for Ukraine, as the Kremlin continues to justify its invasion that has killed tens of thousands.

On Tuesday (6 February), Charles Michel, president of the European Council, issued an appeal for US lawmakers to release billions held up by Republicans amid an election campaign that has put a Donald Trump second presidency back in the spotlight.

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  • 32-year old Morozova Peloheia lost her husband to the war. 'I buried him, but in my head he was still alive' (Photo: EUobserver)

"I want to appeal to the US House of Representatives to release the $60 billion [€56bn] necessary to guarantee the financial stability of Ukraine," said Michel.

However, the US bill, if passed, would mostly go to American companies and US and allied militaries, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.

But Michel's appeal also came after the European Union agreed to a €50bn package for Ukraine, split between €33bn in loans in €17bn in grants — a sum that represents less than 0.08 percent of the EU's annual GDP.

Part of the money will go to rebuilding a country heading into the third year of war after Russia's 24 February invasion in 2022. And initial payouts could already start in March, pending final approval, said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

Manfred Weber, who heads the centre-right EPP, said it would help rebuild destroyed villages, put doctors in hospitals and teachers in schools.

Such promises would be welcomed in villages and towns near the frontline in south-east Ukraine, visited by EUobserver last week.

This includes Novohryhorivka, a village where Russia tanks levelled all the homes. Almost two years later, most of those homes remain in ruins. Another is Pravdyne, where Russian soldiers carried out war crimes after shooting dead seven people, including a teenage girl.

Today, its mayor is struggling to feed and provide fresh water to the remaining villagers. Others are too terrified to return home given the proximity to the frontline and wider fears of what they would find.

Among them is 32-year old Morozova Peloheia and her two small daughters, four and seven, currently refuged at a collective centre in Mykolaiv, a port city in southeast Ukraine.

Morozova had lost her husband, a soldier, at the start of the war. Before he died, he had sent her a text message announcing his love for her and the kids, she said. The following week, he was killed.

"I buried him but in my head he was still alive. I spent a whole year asking myself if he was still alive," she said, shedding tears.

In Kherson, a city constantly shelled by the Russians, 64-year old Olena Pantilieva, said the war would be over if more aid arrived from the US and Europe.

"We are prepared to live in these conditions and wait," she said. In the 24 hours leading up those comments, the city was shelled over 60 times.

The EU institutions say they remain committed to Ukraine. But broken EU promises to deliver one million artillery rounds by March have raised eyebrows.

"We're only on 524,000, that's not what we promised and we need to do better," said Hadja Lahbib, Belgium's foreign minister.

The deadline has now been pushed to the end of the year.

Ammunition shortfalls aside, the EU says it has helped train 40,000 Ukrainian soldiers, mobilised €28bn in military equipment, and increased by 40 percent the ammunition production capacity of the European defence industry.

It now wants to fold Ukraine's defence industry into the wider European one and as part of defence industrial strategy. "It is a first step, which should lead to integrating Ukraine in some of our defence programmes," said von der Leyen.


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