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Ukraine updates: UN seeks $5.6 billion in humanitarian aid

February 15, 2023

The UN appealed that the $5.6 billion could reach 15.3 million Ukrainians in most pressing need this year. Meanwhile, fighting continues in the east of Ukraine. DW rounds up the latest.

Civilians spend time at a humanitarian aid center in Bakhmut, Donetsk
Civilians spend time at a humanitarian aid center in Bakhmut, DonetskImage: Diego Herrera Carcedo/AA/picture alliance

The United Nations said that $5.6 billion (€5.2 billion) were necessary to supply humanitarian aid to Ukraine and the millions of refugees who fled the war-ravaged country. 

The UN estimated that, currently, 21.8 million Ukrainians were dependent on humanitarian assistance.

"The war continues to cause death, destruction and displacement daily, and on a staggering scale," UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said in a statement.

"We must do all we can to reach the hardest-to-reach communities, including those close to the front line," he added. "The suffering of the Ukrainian people is far from over — they continue to need international support."

The UN said $1.7 billion of the amount it sought was necessary for humanitarian aid to the more than four million Ukrainian refugees dispersed across eastern Europe. 

Women and children made up around 86% of the overall refugee population, the UN estimated. "Europe has proven capable of bold, collective action to help refugees," said Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees. 

"We must not, however, take this response, or the hospitality of host communities, for granted," he added. "Continued international support and solidarity is needed, until refugees are able to return to their homes in safety and dignity, which must also remain a priority."

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Wednesday, February 15.

Rheinmetall to deliver first ammunition for Gepards in summer

The German arms-maker Rheinmetall wants to deliver the ammunition for the Gepard anti-aircraft tank ordered by Germany on behalf of Ukraine in the summer. 

"The first cartridges will be delivered in the summer of 2023," Rheinmetall said in a statement. A total of 300,000 cartridges are to be produced in two versions. The order value is in the lower three-digit million euro range.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in Brussels on Tuesday that the contracts had been signed. According to the ministry, Germany has delivered 32 Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine since the summer, with five more to follow by the end of February.

The ammunition for Gepards is to be produced in a new production line that will start operations in Lower Saxony at the end of the first quarter of 2023. 

Meanwhile, Ukraine's state arms producer Ukroboronprom said that it had launched joint production of 120-mm mortar rounds with a central European country in NATO, and that it plans to develop and produce other arms and military hardware with allies. The arms producer did not specify the NATO member country in question.

Germany expects Ukraine to receive fewer tanks than expected

Ukraine is going to receive fewer battle tanks than previously envisaged by Berlin, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said after a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

No new pledges for Leopard 2A6 tanks were made at a meeting of the so-called tank coalition of interested nations at the sidelines of the NATO meeting in Brussels.

As only Germany and Portugal are ready to supply the Leopard 2A6 tanks, the supply of this model is currently below battalion strength, Pistorius said.

Germany pledged 14 such tanks and Portugal three. Sweden is still assessing if it can supply Leopard 2A6 models to Ukraine, where a battalion is usually equipped with 31 tanks.

However, Leopard 2A4 models have been pledged in greater numbers so far with the toll standing currently at almost 30, Pistorius said. 

In January, the German government said it wants to gather two Leopard 2 tank battalions for Ukraine.

Ukraine defense chief confident West will send jets — report

Defense Minister of Ukraine, Oleksii Reznikov has expressed confidence that the West would supply fighter aircraft to Kyiv in the fight against Russia, Reuters news agency reported.

When asked about whether Ukraine would get jets, Reznikov responded: "Absolutely, I am confident."

Reznikov said warplanes were needed to help defend Ukraine from Russian attacks.

"We vitally need aircraft as a platform to defend our sky. We have to dominate in our Ukrainian sky. It will protect our civil population, first of all, and certainly our armed forces."

The US and Germany have thus far ruled out sending fighter aircraft to Ukraine, while other countries have expressed a willingness to consider the idea.

Enough air-defense ammunition until summer — Pistorius

Germany's Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that there are "highly sufficient" ammunition stocks of the German-made Gepard anti-aircraft defense system.

"It should suffice until the summer," Pistorius said.

Germany has signed contracts with Rheinmetall to restart the production of ammunition for the Gepard anti-aircraft weaponry it has delivered to Kyiv.

Ukraine defense minister to remain in post

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, said he would be remaining in his current position.

Reuters news agency asked Reznikov whether he expected to continue serving as the country's defence chief to which he replied: "Yes, it was the decision of my president."

Earlier in February a senior lawmaker said Reznikov would be replaced by military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov.

Reznikov, who has served since November 2021, had come under fire after his deputy Vyacheslav Shapovalov resigned following Ukrainian media reports suggesting that the ministry was overpaying on food for the military.

Graft allegations started to emerge in January, prompting Zelenskyy to promise personnel changes in the government.

Zelenskyy calls for prompt military support after Russia attacks 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for allies to make a swift decision to send further military support to Ukraine as NATO defense ministers met and Russia attacked the country's eastern front line.

Russia's artillery fire was focused on Bakhmut, a ravaged city in Donetsk province and a main target for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Its capture could provide Russia with a stepping stone to further cities in the region and potentially give momentum to its offensive. 

NATO's defense ministers were meeting in Brussels for a two-day gathering to discuss the war and ammunition stocks.

Zelenskyy said Russia was rushing to advance as far as it could before Ukraine could muster strength. "That is why speed is of the essence," Zelenskyy said in an evening video address.

"Speed in everything — adopting decisions, carrying out decisions, shipping supplies, training. Speed saves people's lives, speed brings back security, and I thank all our partners who realize that speed is important," he added.

Russia claims success in offensive in eastern Ukraine

Russia reported a breakthrough through Ukrainian defense lines in part of the Luhansk region.

"During the offensive...  the Ukrainian troops randomly retreated to a distance of up to three kilometers (1.9 miles) from the previously occupied lines," the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.

A Ukrainian soldier patrols the street in Bakhmut
The Russian Defense Ministry said its troops had breached the second line of defense in a recent attackImage: Libkos/AP Photo/picture alliance

"Even the more fortified second line of defense of the enemy could not hold the breakthrough of the Russian military," the ministry added. The ministry did not say in which part of the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk the offensive took place. 

Ukraine has recently reported increasingly heavy Russian shelling along the frontline in the east of the country and describes the situation as difficult, even if many Russian attacks could have been repelled. 

Russia now holds areas of the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, including its nuclear plant, nearly all of Luhansk and over half of Donetsk, including its regional capital.

Extraordinary session of Russian parliament ahead of war anniversary

Two days before the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the upper chamber of Russia's parliament is set to hold an extraordinary session, Russian media reported.

Vyacheslav Timchenko, a senior lawmaker, told the Russian news agency RIA that the meeting would center on the adoption of laws regarding the integration of four Ukrainian regions into the Russian Federation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to hold his annual speech during a joint meeting of Russia's two houses of parliament, the federal assembly, on 21 February. 

Russia holds at least 6,000 Ukrainian children for 're-education' — report

A US-backed report that was published on Tuesday estimated that Russia was holding at least 6,000 Ukrainian children, with the possibility of higher numbers, in sites in Crimea. Russia's primary purpose was stated to be political re-education. 

Germany took in over 1 million Ukrainians last year

"To date, we have offered shelter to 1,062,000 Ukrainians from Putin's brutal attacks," German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told the Düsseldorf-based Rheinische Post, highlighting Germany's efforts to provide shelter for war refugees from Ukraine in 2022.  

Eight out of ten refugees came to Germany from Ukraine last year, she added. Faeser called for a more equal distribution of war refugees across Europe.

los/fb (AFP, dpa, epd, Reuters)