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UKRAINE UPDATE: 16 MARCH 2023

Allies ‘ready to deliver MiG-29 jets’; Russia tries to retrieve US drone that crashed in Black Sea

Allies ‘ready to deliver MiG-29 jets’; Russia tries to retrieve US drone that crashed in Black Sea
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (second left) and Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir (third from right) during a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 14 March 2023. The Icelandic prime minister visited Kyiv to meet Ukrainian officials and show support for and solidarity with Ukraine. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service)

Poland said several allies had signalled readiness to deliver Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine as neighbouring Slovakia took a step closer to a decision to send MiG-29 aircraft. Warsaw has ‘clear declarations’ from allies who are committed, said a government spokesperson.

Russia sought to retrieve a US drone that crashed in the Black Sea after being hit by a Russian fighter jet. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called the incident “reckless”.

“I’m not sure whether we will be able to retrieve it or not, but it’s definitely true that we need to and are trying,” Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said in comments posted by a state TV reporter. Austin said the US would continue drone flights in international air space.

Key developments

Poland sees coalition emerging for Soviet-era jets to Ukraine  

Polish government spokesperson Piotr Muller didn’t elaborate on which allies would agree to send MiG-29 aircraft, leaving decisions to individual states.

In Slovakia, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said his interim government was poised to decide in favour of MiG shipments, though it was awaiting details to be finalised in negotiations. Heger was forced to resolve a legal dispute, since his administration has limited powers after losing a confidence vote in December.

Nearly a quarter of Ukrainian women live abroad

Almost one in four of Ukraine’s pre-war female population is now outside the country, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said in a research note.

Most of the women were employed before leaving the country, the EBRD said. Among males, 13% are living outside Ukraine. Most refugees haven’t found work in the host countries, and many face financial difficulties. In total, some 35% of Ukraine’s pre-war population is now living away from home, according to the EBRD.

Poland makes arrests tied to alleged spy ring

Polish authorities detained six foreign nationals accused of installing surveillance equipment alongside railway lines linking the country with Ukraine, RMF FM radio reported. Intelligence services say the arrests are tied to an alleged Russian espionage network, RMF said.

The network focused on Poland’s southeast Podkarpackie region bordering Ukraine, a hub of military and humanitarian support for Kyiv, the report said. Earlier this month, Poland warned the Kremlin was ramping up spying activities in neighbouring Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave, in an attempt to escalate tension.

 

 

 

Austin calls Russia ‘reckless’, says drone flights will continue

The US will continue its drone flights in international airspace in the wake of a Russian aircraft’s interference with a surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, Austin said.

“This hazardous episode is part of a pattern of aggressive, risky, and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace,” Austin said at the 10th meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group. “So make no mistake. The United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows. And it is incumbent upon Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner.”

Russia says it’s trying to get downed US drone

“The Americans are always saying that they’re not participating in military action,” Patrushev said. “But this is the latest confirmation that they are directly involved in this war.”

The US blamed Russian planes for causing the crash, an allegation Moscow denied. The US said it tried to prevent the drone, which went down in international waters, from falling into the wrong hands.

Turkey’s Erdoğan hints at green light for Finland

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his nation would fulfil its promise to Finland about the nation’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, offering the clearest signal yet that he would approve the Nordic country’s entry into the alliance after months of negotiations.

“We will meet Finland’s president and do what our promise requires of us,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Erdoğan as telling reporters at Parliament, ahead of Finnish President Sauli Niinisto’s visit to the country on Thursday.

US warns ambassador over Russia’s ‘reckless, unprofessional behaviour’ 

Officials from President Joe Biden’s administration called Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov into the State Department on Tuesday, as they warned him over the “reckless, unprofessional behaviour” by a Russian pilot involved in the drone incident, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN.

The drone hadn’t been recovered yet, Kirby said, adding the US government did its best to avoid the craft getting into the wrong hands.

Denmark sets up $1bn Ukraine fund

Denmark created a new fund for Ukraine with seven billion kroner ($1-billion) in assets in 2023 to be used for military, civil and commercial support, the government said. The Nordic nation, which contributed about five billion kroner last year, also set a goal to be one of the biggest donors relative to a country’s size, the finance ministry said in a statement.

Ukraine wins UK Supreme Court case over $3bn bond default

Britain’s top court declared that a judge should pore over Russian attempts to strong-arm Ukraine into buying the bond, giving the green light to a full-blown London trial.

The long-awaited decision allows Ukraine to argue that the bond, sold in 2013 on the eve of the revolution in Kyiv, was part of unlawful political and military aggression from Moscow. The judges gave their decision on Wednesday in a ruling that knocks out Russian attempts to win the case and allows Ukraine to stave off any further repayments.

Russia’s oil revenue drops sharply as price caps work, says IEA

Russia’s oil export revenue fell to the lowest in more than a year in February as buyers of the nation’s barrels largely complied with price caps and sanctions, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The flow of money into the country from international oil sales fell to $11.6-billion last month, down more than 40% from a year earlier, according to the IEA. February crude oil and product exports averaged 7.5 million barrels a day, the lowest since September, the agency estimated.

 

 

Turkey favours 120-day extension of grain deal

Turkey supported the extension of the Black Sea grain deal for 120 days and was talking with its counterparts in Ukraine and Russia to secure an agreement, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in Ankara.

The agreement, which ensures safe passage of crop exports from three ports, has enabled Ukraine to ship out more than 24 million tonnes since it was sealed in July, helping drive down food commodity costs that had soared to a record after Russia’s invasion initially disrupted trade flows.

Turkey was also considering allowing US forces to enter the Bosphorus Strait to retrieve a drone that crashed after a reported collision with a Russian fighter jet above the Black Sea on Tuesday, he said.

Nato jets scrambled as Russian plane nears Estonian airspace  

British and German Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled on Tuesday to intercept a Russian aircraft that flew near Estonian airspace. The Russian Il-78 Midas plane was flying between St Petersburg and Kaliningrad and failed to respond to air traffic control in Estonia, the BBC reported.

Brief intrusions in Baltic airspace are not uncommon, with multiple incidents occurring over the past year. German and British fighters are policing Baltic skies as part of an ongoing Nato defence programme.

US and Turkey talk in Washington about grain deal

The US and Turkey discussed shared concerns regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Ankara’s efforts to ensure a renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, according to a White House readout of a meeting in Washington between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Turkish counterpart Ibrahim Kalin. DM

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