Ukraine-Russia war – live: EU agrees deal for vital £43bn Kyiv aid as it breaks veto by Hungary’s Orban

Moment Russian plane carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war appears to crash

The European Union has unanimously agreed to send a €50 billion (£43bn) support package to Ukraine after months of Hungary refusing to vote in favour of the support.

European Council President Charles Michel announced they had agreed to a deal in the opening minutes of a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.

Earlier this morning, Hungary’s leader Viktor Orban sat down with the EU’s top five leaders to discuss ceasing his blocking of the bill, which requires unanimity from the bloc’s 27 members to go through.

“We have a deal. All 27 leaders agreed on an additional €50 billion support package for Ukraine within the EU budget,” Mr Michel wrote on X.

“This locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding for #Ukraine. EU is taking leadership & responsibility in support for Ukraine; we know what is at stake”

The deal ended months of back and forth between Hungary and the EU that had at one point led to Mr Orban accusing the bloc of trying to “blackmail” him.


Germany’s Scholz says many EU countries do not do enough to support Ukraine

Many EU countries are not doing enough to support Ukraine in its war, German chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters on Thursday, following an EU summit in Brussels where additional aid for Ukraine was agreed upon.

“In many capitals the question has to be asked: are we actually doing enough? And the answer in most cases can only be no,” he said, adding that Germany cannot manage military support alone.

Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, 1 February

(Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Tom Watling1 February 2024 15:02


Hungary’s Orban says EU controls guarantee reasonable use of money for Ukraine

Hungary accepted an EU deal to extend 50 billion euros ($54 billion) in new aid to Ukraine after receiving an offer for a control mechanism that guarantees reasonable use of the money, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday.

Hungary accepted the deal with conditions that withheld EU funds from Hungary will not end up in Ukraine and that Ukrainian aid will be used sensibly, Orban said in a video on Facebook, adding he was pleased markets reacted positively to the agreement.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had opposed any additional aid to Ukraine and accused the European Union of blackmail


Tom Watling1 February 2024 14:31


EU leaders: ‘urgent need’ to accelerate delivery of ammunition and missiles to Ukraine

EU leaders stressed an ‘urgent need’ to accelerate the delivery of ammunition and missiles to Ukraine, after unanimously agreeing to extend 50 billion euros ($54 billion) in new aid to Ukraine, they have said in a statement.

The statement also said that they are determined to continue providing timely, predictable and sustainable military support to Ukraine.

Tom Watling1 February 2024 14:00


In pictures: Emotional moment Ukrainian prisoners of war arrive home in first swap since downed plane

About 200 Ukrainian prisoners of war returned home after the latest round of prisoner exchanges between Russia and Ukraine – the first since the deadly crash of a military plane which Russia said carried Ukrainian soldiers sparked tensions between the two nations.

Tom Watling1 February 2024 13:30


Zelensky calls for more military assistance after EU financial package success

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, has urged the European Union to step up on military aid after a vital financial package was finally passed.

In a video address to leaders gathered in Brussels, the Ukrainian leader said the decision on €50 billion in aid “is a clear signal that Ukraine will withstand and that Europe will withstand.”

But, he added: “Unfortunately, the implementation of the European plan to supply one million artillery shells to Ukraine is being delayed.

“And this too is a signal of global competition, in which Europe cannot afford to lose.​

“And that’s why today your unity is so needed in creating the Ukraine Assistance Fund within our European Peace Facility.​

“This is the kind of reliability and long-term support which we now have to set against the corresponding challenges. Not less than 5 billion euros per year, for a term of 4 years. A clear priority.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Ukrainian students during a meeting along with Polish Prime minister in Kyiv

(AFP via Getty Images)

Tom Watling1 February 2024 13:00


Russia says it has evidence US Patriot missiles downed its military transport plane

Russian investigators said on Thursday they had evidence showing that Ukraine’s military shot down a Russian Il-76 military transport plane last week with US-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles.

The Russian Air Force Il-76 fell from the skies on 24 January. Russia said all 74 people on board, including 65 captured Ukrainian soldiers en route to be swapped for Russian prisoners of war, were killed, and blamed Kyiv for downing the plane.

The investigators released footage of body parts which they said proved those aboard were Ukrainian military personnel.

Kyiv, which is fighting Russian forces in Ukraine, has neither confirmed nor denied that it downed the plane, but has challenged details of Moscow’s account and called for an international investigation.

Russia’s State Investigative Committee said in a statement that Ukrainian soldiers in the area of Lyptsi in the Kharkiv region had fired two missiles at the plane.

Among the fragments were serial numbers with English acronyms, including “CONFIDENTIAL classified by PATRIOT SECURITY CLASSIFICATION GUIDE DATED: 9/22/83 ADDENDUM DATED 11/28/83 8/8/84 CONTRACT NO/DAAH01-86C-A018′,” the committee said in a statement.

“The fragments seized from the scene, according to their design features, geometric characteristics and available markings, are structural elements of the MIM-104A anti-aircraft guided missile of the Patriot complex of the United States, developed by Raytheon and Hughes corporations and manufactured by Raytheon,” the committee said.

It published a short video showing investigators inspecting some of the 116 missile fragments on the ground in an unspecified location. One of the fragments included the what appears to be “ATRIOT” in English.

A separate video from the Investigations Committee, which appeared to be taken at the crash site, showed officials putting what they said were body fragments into bags for evidence.

It showed tattooed skin and said that, checked against DNA and identity records Russian authorities hold of Ukrainian prisoners of war, the investigation proved that those killed were Ukrainian soldiers.

Russia said on Friday it had recovered Ukrainian identity documents and tattooed body parts from the crash site near the Ukrainian border.

Ukraine did not immediately comment on the statement by the investigative committee.

Tom Watling1 February 2024 12:30


Russian court extends pre-trial detention of US journalist Kurmasheva

A Russian court has extended the pre-trial detention of Alsu Kurmasheva, a Russian-American journalist who is accused of violating a law on “foreign agents”.

A Reuters reporter in court in the city of Kazan said Kurmasheva’s custody was extended until 5 April.

Kurmasheva is a Prague-based journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which is funded by the US Congress and designated by Russia as a foreign agent, meaning it gets foreign funding for activity deemed to be political.

Her employer says her detention is unjust and politically motivated.

Kurmasheva is the second US journalist to be arrested and charged in Russia since the start of the Ukraine war in February 2022. Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained last March and is awaiting trial on spying charges which he, his paper and the US government all strongly deny.

Kurmasheva holds both US and Russian passports, and entered Russia on 20 May last year to deal with a family emergency. As she awaited her return flight on 2 June, she was detained and her passports were confiscated.

According to court documents, Kurmasheva was fined 10,000 roubles ($103) on 11 October for failing to register her US passport with Russian authorities.

She was then charged with failing to register as a foreign agent, an offence that carries up to five years in prison, and has been in custody since 18 October.

The term “foreign agent”, which has Cold War connotations of espionage, has been applied in Russia to organisations, journalists, rights activists and even entertainers, and brings with it close government scrutiny and a mountain of red tape.

Tom Watling1 February 2024 11:53


‘This is a step of historic proportions’: Ukraine’s top diplomat praises EU bill

Ukraine’s top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba has praised the EU package as a bill of “historic proportions” in a statement on X.

Tom Watling1 February 2024 11:29


Zelensky thanks EU for €50 billion package

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked the European Union for passing a €50 billion support package to Kyiv.

The money will ostenisbly go to the securing of the Ukrainian state, experts have told The Independent.

“Grateful to @CharlesMichel and EU leaders for establishing the €50 billion Ukraine Facility for 2024-2027,” Mr Zelensky said.

“It is very important that the decision was made by all 27 leaders, which once again proves strong EU unity.

“Continued EU financial support for Ukraine will strengthen long-term economic and financial stability, which is no less important than military assistance and sanctions pressure on Russia.”

Tom Watling1 February 2024 11:15


Top Ukraine advisor praises EU package

Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s top advisor, has praised the news from Brussels that the European Union has finally agreed to send aid to Ukraine.

He posted three emojis on Telegram – of an EU flag, a Ukraine flag and of two hands shaking.

Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s top advisor, praised the EU package

(Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Tom Watling1 February 2024 10:53

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