Ukraine updates: EU agrees to start joint arms procurement
March 8, 2023
EU countries agreed to buy more shells to help Ukraine but still have to work out the specifics. Ukraine and the UN called for an extension of the Black Sea grain deal. DW has the latest.
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.
Will drones give Ukraine an edge in the cyberwar?
Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Wednesday, March 8:
Zelenskyy invites top US lawmaker to Kyiv amid war doubts in Congress
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.
"Mr. 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.
Russia likely bedding in for prolonged war, says US official
A top US intelligence official has warned that Russia may be preparing for a prolonged war of attrition against Ukraine.
"We do not expect the Russian military to recover sufficiently this year to make major territorial gains," US intelligence coordinator Avril Haines said at a Senate hearing in Washington on Wednesday.
Haines said Russian President Vladimir Putin most likely believes that time is on his side and — even if it takes years — prolonging the war might present the Kremlin's best chance of securing Russia's strategic interests in Ukraine.
The official said Putin now better understands the limits of Russian military capabilities and, for now, seems to be concentrating on more modest goals.
Poland's president suggests giving MiG-29s to Ukraine
Poland is ready to hand over its Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine as part of an international coalition, President Andrzej Duda said.
"We are ready to deliver these aircraft and I am sure Ukraine would be ready to use them immediately," Duda told US broadcaster CNN.
For the future, it would be important to train more Ukrainian pilots on US F-16 fighter jets, Duda said during his visit to Abu Dhabi.
The discussion about the Polish MiG-29s already arose last year shortly after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to Polish military experts, the country still has about 30 aircraft of this type in service on NATO's eastern flank. Many of them come from old East German stocks.
Duda, however, did not give any details about the international coalition he was seeking. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had mentioned a NATO decision as a prerequisite at the Munich Security Conference in February.
Russian girl refused contact with father held for Ukraine posts
A 13-year-old Russian girl is being denied contact with her father who was placed under house arrest for comments critical of Moscow's offensive in Ukraine, according to OVD-Info, a human rights monitor.
The group said the girl, who drew a pro-Ukrainian sketch in school, was moved to a "juvenile rehabilitation center" after investigations had begun into her father's comments.
"Maria Moskalyeva ... is not allowed phone calls with her father," OVD-Info reported after speaking to the family's lawyer. An independent lawmaker was also not allowed access to the girl, the NGO said.
According to the rights group, authorities first targeted the family after Moskalyeva drew a picture critical of Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine at school in April last year.
Her father Alexei Moskalyev, a single parent, was later fined 32,000 rubles ($420 or €400) for discrediting the army in a post on social media. This month he was accused of repeating the offence and was placed under house arrest, OVD-Info said.
Power shortage in Ukraine overcome — Ukrenegro
According to the head of the Ukrainian national energy provider Ukrenergo, Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the difficulties with the power supply have been overcome for the time being, unless new Russian attacks damage the system. There has been no electricity shortage in the past 25 days and no deficit is foreseeable, he said.
"The hardest winter in our history is over," he said on Ukrainian television. "The power system is now able to meet existing consumption and that is a very good sign for all of us."
Kudrytskyi attributed the improved situation to the successful repair of the power grid and the completed maintenance of Ukraine's nuclear power plants. Because of the spring flood, hydroelectric power stations provided more electricity, and higher temperatures meant less consumption.
Since last October, Russia has repeatedly fired missiles aimed at destroying Ukraine's electricity and heat supplies. In all parts of the country, this led to hourly and daily outages of electricity, heating and water.
Swiss parliament rejects German request to send ammunition to Ukraine
Swiss lawmakers rejected a request to allow Germany to send Swiss-made tank shells to Ukraine.
The vote by Switzerland's National Council instead leaves in place strict export rules under the country's War Materiel Act, which prohibits any country that purchases weapons or ammunition from Swiss firms from forwarding those goods to countries involved in an international conflict.
The rejected proposal would have allowed the delivery of Swiss-made munitions if the UN General Assembly passes a resolution condemning a war of aggression, as is the case with Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The ban is intended to maintain Switzerland's policy of neutrality in international conflict.
Germany had hoped to ship stockpiles of older ammunition purchased from Switzerland to Ukraine for use in its fight against the Russian invasion.
Germany has also asked Switzerland to sell back its stockpile of mothballed German-made Leopard tanks to replace tanks that are being delivered to Ukraine. The Swiss parliament would have to officially "decommission" the tanks to allow the sale, and there is currently no indication that Swiss lawmakers will approve that request either.
US spy chiefs see China continue to cooperate with Russia
China will maintain its cooperation with Russia to continue trying to confront the US, despite international concerns about the invasion of Ukraine, US intelligence agencies said.
"Despite global backlash over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China will maintain its diplomatic, defense, economic, and technology cooperation with Russia to continue trying to challenge the United States, even as it will limit public support," they said in a report tied to the Senate Intelligence Committee's annual hearing on worldwide threats to US security.
The report said Russia likely does not seek conflict with the US and NATO, but the war in Ukraine carries "great risk" of that happening, and that there is a "real potential" for Russia's military failures in Ukraine to hurt Russian President Vladimir Putin's domestic standing, raising the potential for escalation.
Avril Haines, the Director of National Intelligence, also said the US does not foresee the Russian military recovering enough this year to make major territorial gains.
Seoul approved Poland's export of howitzers with South Korean parts to Ukraine
Seoul approved export licenses last year for Poland to provide Ukraine with Krab howitzers, which are built with South Korean components, a South Korean defense official and a Polish industry representative told Reuters.
The comments are the first confirmation that South Korea officially acquiesced to at least indirectly providing weapons components to Ukraine.
South Korea's Defense Ministry noted that the Krab includes components from several countries, and that the transfer did not involve a complete South Korean weapons system.
The Krab is a self-propelled howitzer made by combining a South Korean K9 Thunder chassis, British BAE Systems turret, French Nexter Systems 155 mm gun and a Polish fire control system.
Following Russia's invasion in February last year, Poland sent 18 Krabs to Ukraine in May, and the two countries have signed orders for dozens more.
Zelenskyy thanks Ukrainian women for their support
On the occasion of International Women's Day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the women of his country for their help and sacrifice in the face of Russia's war.
"It seems to me that it is important to give thanks today. To thank all women who work, teach, learn, save, heal, fight — fight for Ukraine," Zelenskyy said in a video message.
On this day, he said, he wanted to remember all women "who gave their lives for our state." Zelenskyy also said he would call his mother and thank his wife.
At the same time, Ukraine's first lady offered spirited support to her nation's people while visiting the United Arab Emirates, a country that still remains open to Russia despite Western sanctions.
Olena Zelenska described her role and that of other first ladies and gentlemen in the world as a real power while speaking before a packed ballroom on International Women's Day. She also applauded the work of Ukrainians amid the ongoing war.
"We are a force, and we can continue to change the world," Zelenska said at the Forbes 30/50 Summit.
Ukraine and UN chief call for Black Sea grain deal extension
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the extension of a deal with Moscow that has allowed Kyiv to export grain via Black Sea ports during Russia's invasion.
Zelenskyy said after talks with Guterres in Kyiv that the Black Sea Grain Initiative was necessary for the world. Guterres underlined the importance of the deal to global food security and food prices.
"I want to underscore the critical importance of rolling over the Black Sea Grain Initiative on 18 March and working to create the conditions to enable the greatest possible use of export infrastructure through the Black Sea in line with the objectives of the initiative," Guterres said.
The 120-day deal, initially brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July and extended in November, will be renewed on March 18 if no party objects. Russia has signaled that obstacles to its own agricultural exports need to be removed before it lets the deal continue.
To help convince Russia to allow Ukraine to resume Black Sea grain exports, a three-year deal was also struck last year in which the United Nations agreed to help facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports.
Top UN trade official Rebeca Grynspan will meet senior Russian officials in Geneva next week to discuss extending a grain deal, a UN spokesperson said.
German defense minister: Tanks should arrive soon
According to German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, the main battle tanks promised by Germany and Portugal for Ukraine will be delivered by the end of March.
"I can tell you that I just found out that 18 German Leopard 2A6 tanks and three Portuguese ones can all come together to Ukraine this month," Pistorius said on the sidelines of an EU defense ministers meeting in Sweden. The tanks would come into the country with trained crews and could then go to the frontline.
Portugal's Defense Minister Helena Carreiras also announced in Stockholm that three Leopard tanks provided by her country are already in Germany and are "fully operational."
The delivery of Leopard 2 main battle tanks is part of the military aid provided by Germany and other countries to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. In addition to Germany and Portugal, countries such as Poland, Norway, Canada and Spain are also involved in the initiative.
EU court annuls EU sanctions on Wagner founder's mother
The European Union's General Court annulled on Wednesday earlier EU sanctions imposed on Violetta Prigozhina, the mother of Russian Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The court said there was insufficient evidence linking her to her son's illegitimate activities in Ukraine.
Prigozhina was sanctioned by the EU at the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The decision was based on her co-ownership of Concord Management and Consulting LLC, alongside other undertakings she had with her son.
The EU Council, which is made up of leaders of the bloc's 27 nations, had concluded that by co-owning the firms, Prigozhina "supported actions and policies which undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine."
Prigozhina, however, challenged the Council's decision, and said she has not been co-owner of Concord Management and Consulting since 2017.
The court also ruled that the grounds for measures taken against her failed to establish sufficient financial or asset links to her son at the time the sanctions were enacted.
Bakhmut may fall within days — NATO chief
The eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut could fall "in the coming days," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. His comments came after Russia's private Wagner mercenary group claimed to control the eastern part of the city.
While Stoltenberg predicted the capture of Bakhmut would not be "a turning point in the war," he stressed that Russia must not be underestimated.
"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 said.
He added that Western support in the form of ramping up production of ammunition was necessary, saying that the rate of consumption made the current production rate unsustainable.
"This is now a war of attrition, which is a battle of logistics," the French AFP news agency quoted him as saying.
In the early hours of Wednesday, Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a Telegram voice recording: "Everything east of the Bakhmutka River is completely under the control of Wagner."
The report could not be independently verified. Meanwhile, Ukraine denied Russian "success" on the ground.
Serhiy Cherevaty, the spokesperson of the Eastern Group of Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces added in an official statement that the Bakhmut was expected to remain the epicenter of hostilities.
Western strategists and officials suggest a Russian occupation of the city would be of more symbolic than strategic value.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, however, said on Tuesday that control of Bakhmut would allow Moscow's forces to mount further attacks deeper inside Ukraine.
Ukraine says it will continue defending Bakhmut
German prosecution inspected ship suspected of carrying Nord Stream explosives
Authorities searched a ship thought to have possibly transported explosives tied to the Nord Stream pipeline explosions, the German Prosecutors Office said Wednesday.
The announcement came following media reports indicating pro-Ukrainian groups may have been responsible for the blasts.
In January, the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office searched a ship suspected of transporting explosives used in sabotaging the two pipelines in September 2022, a spokesperson for the Karlsruhe-based prosecutor's office said.
US reports new findings on Nord Stream 2 explosions
Authorities were still evaluating the seized objects.
The spokesperson said authorities were still investigating the identity of the perpetrators as well as their motives. She added that no further statements could be released in the time being.
UN: Video of unarmed Ukrainian's execution may be authentic
The UN Human Rights Office said it believes a viral video showing the purported execution of a captured soldier after saying "Glory to Ukraine" may be authentic.
"Based on a preliminary examination, we believe that the video may be authentic," a spokesperson for the office told the French AFP news agency on Wednesday.
The Ukrainian army said on Tuesday that it provisionally determined the identity of the man allegedly shot by Russian soldiers in the video, describing him as a Ukrainian prisoner of war.
The video, which surfaced on Monday, shows what appears to be an unarmed man in uniform with a Ukrainian flag insignia on his arm. The man is heard saying "Slava Ukraini," which means "Glory to Ukraine," before multiple shots are heard and the man is seen collapsing as bullets hit his body.
A voice is heard telling him to "die" in Russian.
Ukraine's army said that the man had been listed as missing near the eastern city of Bakhmut since February 3.
Berlin cautions against hasty accusations on Nord Stream sabotage
"It may just as well have been a false flag operation staged to blame Ukraine, an option brought up in the media reports as well," Pistorius told German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock echoed the same caution, saying investigations into the attacks by the relevant authorities must be concluded first.
During a visit to Erbil in the Iraqi autonomous Kurdistan region, Baerbock said on Wednesday that Berlin would not "jump to conclusions" until the federal prosecutor's investigation is concluded.
DW interview with Slovak Defense Minister on Nord Stream
Guterres in Kyiv to discuss grain deal extension
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Kyiv on Wednesday, where negotiating an extension of the grain export deal between Russia and Ukraine is on the top of his agenda.
Guterres arrived from Poland, where he visited on Tuesday. He is scheduled to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his visit.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was brokered by the UN and Turkey last summer to alleviate the impact of the war on global food security. It allows the export of millions of tons of grain and other foods out of Ukraine via three Black Sea ports.
Before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, the country was a major grain exporter.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the secretary-general will discuss upholding the deal "in all its aspects and other pertinent issues."
The agreement, signed last July and extended once in November, is due to expire on March 18. Last week, Ukrainian officials urged both the UN and Ankara to seek a renewal.
Kremlin rejects US media reports on Nord Stream attacks
The Kremlin has rejected reports in US media regarding last year's Nord Stream pipeline attacks, saying it was confused as to how US officials could make assumptions about the attacks without investigation.
"Obviously, the authors of the attack want to divert attention. Obviously, this is a coordinated stuffing in the media," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the state RIA news agency as saying.
Peskov said Nord Stream shareholder countries should insist on an urgent, transparent investigation. He complained that Moscow had yet to gain permission to investigate.
"Only a few days ago, we received notes about this from the Danes and Swedes," he said. "This is not just strange, it smells like a monstrous crime."
New intelligence reviewed by US officials suggests that a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines last year, The New York Times reported.
There was no evidence that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy or his top lieutenants in Ukraine were involved in the operation or that the perpetrators were acting at the direction of any Ukrainian government officials, the newspaper reported, citing US officials.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to Zelenskyy, said that Kyiv was "absolutely not involved" in last year's attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines and had no information about what happened.
Russia's deputy UN envoy Dmitry Polyanskiy said that a report "only proves that our initiative on launching an international investigation under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General is very timely."
Russia plans to call a vote in the UN Security Council by the end of March on its draft resolution asking Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish such an inquiry.
EU defense ministers to meet on boosting Ukraine supplies
The critical ammunition shortage Kyiv is currently suffering will top Wednesday's agenda. European leaders are trying to restore the thousands of shells fired by Ukrainian forces daily to ward off Russia's offensive.
With the eastern city of Bakhmut being the main battlefield at the moment, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has warned that Moscow would have an "open road" for offensives deeper into Ukraine should Russia capture the city.