Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visits Kyiv; Estonia urges EU to ramp up ammo acquisition

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visits Kyiv; Estonia urges EU to ramp up ammo acquisition
Ukrainian rescuers work at the site of a drone strike in the city of Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine, on 27 February 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ukraine State Emergency Service Handout)

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made an unannounced trip to Ukraine to highlight US economic aid that is helping keep the country’s public services running as Russia’s invasion enters its second year.

China’s proposal on Ukraine deserves “great attention” and Russia will study the ideas in detail, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Saudi Arabia signed agreements worth $400-million with Ukraine after the kingdom’s foreign minister made a surprise visit to Kyiv.

Key developments

On the ground  

Bakhmut remains the epicentre of Russian attacks, with Russian forces conducting 300 artillery strikes, Ukrainian military spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyi said on television. Russia launched a squadron of Iranian-made, single-use drones, and Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 11 of 14. The attack hit the western city of Khmelnytskyi, killing at least one person and wounding four more, Ukrainian officials said.

Yellen makes secret Kyiv trip to buoy Ukraine, build US support 

A week after US President Joe Biden’s surprise visit to the capital, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen arrived by train under similar secrecy to emphasise Washington’s commitment to Ukraine and demonstrate at home why the country needs billions of dollars in non-military aid.

She met President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and announced the disbursement of the first $1.25-billion in fresh economic assistance, out of a total $10-billion pledged by Biden’s administration.

The US has already provided almost $50-billion to Ukraine, she said. Without such funding, Ukrainians “wouldn’t be able to have kids who continue to go to school, whose parents continue to go to work,” Yellen said in an interview with Bloomberg News before her trip. “They wouldn’t be able to finance first responders and hospitals, and provide the core government services.”




Russia halts oil to Poland over lack of papers

Russia stopped oil shipments to Poland after pipeline operator Transneft didn’t receive the documents necessary for the crude to be allowed to leave Russia and the loading schedule was changed to exclude flows to Polish refineries.

The producer of the oil that was due to be delivered to Poland in the final days of February didn’t send shipment orders or the transit payment, Transneft spokesman Igor Dyomin said.

On Saturday, Poland’s largest oil company PKN Orlen said it had unexpectedly stopped receiving oil via the northern leg of the Druzhba pipeline.

Estonia urges EU to ramp up ammo acquisition

Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur is urging the EU to focus on speedily acquiring ammunition for Ukraine instead of sending existing stocks, as the bloc’s top foreign policy chief has suggested, to jump-start industrial production.

“We should of course provide 155mm ammunition from existing stocks as well, but the demand stimulates supply only when new contracts are signed with the industry,” Minister Pevkur wrote in a letter to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell that has been seen by Bloomberg. Pevkur stressed that Europe’s ammunition production volumes are currently insufficient, both to supply Ukraine but also to replenish stocks in the long term, as Russia fires Europe’s monthly production of artillery rounds in a single day.

The letter adds that procurements could be conducted by an EU body, but also by a member state acting on behalf of the bloc if this were a quicker solution.

Monday drone attack came from unusual direction 

An overnight drone attack was launched from Russian territory to Ukraine’s north, a vector that hasn’t been widely used since last year, Ukrainian Air Defence spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said.

Ukrainian officials said earlier that they had shot down 11 of the 14 Iranian-made Shahed drones in the salvo, which killed at least one person and wounded four others. The attack followed a report from UK intelligence that said there were indications Russia had run down its stock of unmanned attack aircraft.

“I don’t remember this happening for several months,” Ihnat said by phone. He added that the attack may signal that Russia has either redeployed drones to Ukraine’s north or received a new supply of the weapons.

Russia to study Chinese proposal with ‘great attention’ 

China’s proposal for Ukraine deserves “great attention” and Russia will study the ideas in detail, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Tass.

At the same time, he said Russia sees “no preconditions at present” for the conflict to shift tack and will continue its military operation.

Ukraine and its allies rejected the Chinese initiative as unacceptably biased toward Russia’s interests shortly after Beijing announced it last week.




Blackout in Odesa after accident 

The city of Odesa and a surrounding district were facing a temporary blackout following the collapse of a high-voltage line, according to private energy company DTEK.

It was the second power accident in the southern seaport this month, as the city’s grid is still grappling with damage from multiple Russian air strikes. Still, Ukraine’s electricity supplies have improved in February and there are fewer power outages.

Ukraine gets support from Saudis 

Prince Faisal bin Farhan was the highest-ranking Saudi official to visit Ukraine in 30 years. He met President Volodymyr Zelensky, his chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, and others.

The agreements stipulated how some $410-million in humanitarian aid the Saudi government authorised for Ukraine back in October will be spent, the prince told reporters.

Zelensky dismisses Ukrainian joint forces commander 

President Zelensky dismissed Eduard Moskalyov from his post of Ukraine’s joint forces commander, according to a copy of the decree released by his office. No details were given.

Moskalyov was commander of the forces which have been engaged in defending the Donbas region, Reuters reported. He had been in the post since March of last year. DM


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