World

UKRAINE UPDATE: 24 OCTOBER 2023

Turkey’s Erdoğan sends Sweden’s Nato bid to Parliament; EU ministers discuss ongoing support for Kyiv

Turkey’s Erdoğan sends Sweden’s Nato bid to Parliament; EU ministers discuss ongoing support for Kyiv
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Rajat Gupta)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a Bill approving Sweden’s Nato membership bid to Parliament for a vote after more than a year of negotiations with the Nordic nation, which sought to join the alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Hungary has also been holding out, preventing Sweden’s membership.

Foreign ministers of the European Union, who met in Luxembourg, discussed continuing support for Ukraine, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told reporters after the talks. EU leaders, who will hold a summit in Brussels this week, have to provide guidance on further assistance, Borrell said.

The EU is seeking to maintain unity on Ukraine as allies expect Russia’s invasion to drag on, possibly for years. Hungary in particular has been an ongoing challenge in maintaining that united front, especially after Prime Minister Viktor Orbán met Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Latest developments

US seeks forfeiture of Russian tycoon’s $300m superyacht

The US is seeking to force the sanctioned Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov to forfeit a $300-million superyacht.

The 106m luxury ship Amadea had already been seized in Fiji last year at the request of the US government, which on Monday asked a federal judge in New York to formally transfer its ownership. The Department of Justice (DOJ) claims Kerimov routed hundreds of thousands of dollars through US financial institutions in violation of sanctions for maintenance, fuel and fees for the yacht.

The legal filing on Monday is the latest move by a US DOJ task force targeting assets, including yachts, planes and luxury real estate of wealthy Russians sanctioned in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The task force has evidence showing Kerimov’s “clear interest in the Amadea and the repeated misuse of the US financial system to support and maintain the yacht for his benefit”, task force co-director Michael Khoo said in a statement announcing the move.

Amadea, which features six decks and a helipad, has spent months docked in US custody after it sailed from Fiji to Honolulu and on to San Diego. Fijian authorities seized the boat at the request of the US. The cost of maintaining the yacht and keeping it docked runs into the millions of dollars a year.

Read more: Impounded Russian superyachts are costing millions to maintain

The DOJ claims Kerimov used a series of shell company transactions to hide his ownership of Amadea.

Kerimov (57) is worth $7.5-billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He built his wealth by making major bets on Russian companies across a variety of industries after the fall of the Soviet Union. The DOJ alleges he benefitted from the regime of Putin and “played a key role in advancing Russia’s malign activities”.

His fortune was said to be worth as much as $18-billion at its peak, although he lost much of that in the market crash that followed the 2008 financial crisis. The majority of his wealth today is derived from the proceeds of his investments in Polyus, Russia’s biggest gold producer, and other Russia-based holdings.

Zelensky holds call with Saudi prince on Ukraine, Middle East

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a phone call with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on ways to further develop Ukraine’s ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, according to Zelensky’s post on social media platform X.

Zelensky invited a Saudi representative to take part in the next round of Peace Formula talks in Malta which are due to take place this weekend.

The meeting follows similar gatherings in Denmark in June and Saudi Arabia in August focused on a 10-point plan that includes a call for the full withdrawal of Russian troops.

The two leaders also discussed the situation in the Middle East, with Zelensky calling for a de-escalation of the conflict and preventing civilian casualties. DM

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