World

UKRAINE UPDATE: 5 APRIL 2024

Nato allies temper hopes on $100bn Kyiv fund; US Congress in aid legislation showdown

Nato allies temper hopes on $100bn Kyiv fund; US Congress in aid legislation showdown
A 14-storey apartment building damaged in a Russian drone attack on 4 April 2024 in Kharkiv, Ukraine. (Photo: Ivan Samoilov / Gwara Media / Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

Nato allies are reining in expectations about the viability of a proposed $100bn fund to support Ukraine as the alliance grapples with how to provide sufficient aid to Kyiv.

US funds Argentem Creek Partners and Innovatus Capital Partners said they had won the support of a Ukrainian court in their bid to wrest control of an Odesa grain terminal operator from local financiers.

Republican House leadership was considering including a provision in a potential aid package for Ukraine that would require the Biden administration to approve some liquefied natural gas export projects, according to people familiar with the matter. 

Russian forces stepped up their attacks on Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, overnight as part of a recent campaign against the country’s power infrastructure that has surpassed the intensity of similar barrages last year.

Nato allies urge caution over $100bn aid plan for Kyiv

Nato allies are reining in expectations about the viability of a proposed $100-billion fund to support Ukraine as the alliance grapples with how to provide sufficient aid to Kyiv.

At a gathering of the alliance’s foreign ministers in Brussels, some countries raised doubts about the prospects of finding fresh funding for Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s plan to pool allied contributions over five years. Several ministers suggested it would be better to pledge a smaller amount that allies can more clearly back, according to a senior diplomat present for the discussions. 

Many ministers stressed the Nato initiative shouldn’t compete with bilateral and EU aid and warned that the alliance shouldn’t make promises to Ukraine that it can’t keep, according to officials present for the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Another senior diplomat said the $100-billion sum was so large, that it would likely have to account for bilateral donations member states give Ukraine, meaning any additional fresh funding would probably be marginal.

“We have to avoid duplicity, double accountabilities, counting twice the money or buying the same things,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told a small group of reporters on Wednesday evening. Still, in the end, “we all want to make sure Ukraine has what it needs in terms of volume and in terms of time,” he said.

The concerns highlight the tough discussions allies will have to undertake to hammer out a deal in time for a leaders’ summit in Washington in July. With a formal invitation for Ukraine to join not on the table this year, Nato is instead seeking to propose a package of measures for Kyiv that would serve as a “bridge” to membership and would create predictability around allies’ support over the years to come, while sending a message to Russia about their determination.

The discussions come amid deepening worries about the situation on the ground in Ukraine due to severe ammunition shortages for Kyiv’s forces. Warming weather is heightening concerns that Russia will have better prospects at punching through the front line when it renews attacks this spring and summer.  

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters he had delivered to Nato members “a very sobering message” about the toll of Russian air attacks, calling on the allies to boost Ukraine’s air defences including with the US-made Patriot, “the only system that effectively intercepts ballistic missiles”.

Following a closed-door discussion, Kuleba told reporters that the “allies will undertake an exercise of allocating, of finding, identifying these additional air defence systems in order to bring them to Ukraine”.

US funds win Ukraine court support in Odesa grain terminal spat

US funds Argentem Creek Partners and Innovatus Capital Partners said they had won the support of a Ukrainian court in their bid to wrest control of an Odesa grain terminal operator from local financiers. 

An appeal court in Lviv on Thursday rejected a request by the shareholders of Olimpex Coupe International, part of GN Terminal Enterprises, to dismiss the appointment of independent bankruptcy managers, the funds said in an emailed statement.

A spokesperson for GNT didn’t return calls and emails seeking comment. Olimpex and GNT are controlled by Serhiy Groza and Volodymyr Naumenko.

The ruling is a key step in the tussle for the ownership of the port facility. Olimpex defaulted on its loans even before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and creditors allege grain and sunflower seeds worth $130-million had disappeared from the terminal, according to the statement. The UK High Court imposed a $118-million worldwide freezing order against Groza and Naumenko.

The Odesa region is home to Ukraine’s largest ports, where most of the country’s grain is shipped for export. The city has been targeted by Russian missiles and drones over the past two years. Even as the government in Moscow quashed a grain export deal last year, Ukraine was able to reopen maritime shipments by forcing Russia’s navy to stay away from the north-western part of the Black Sea.

Republicans consider requiring LNG approvals in Ukraine aid

Republican House leadership was considering including a provision in a potential aid package for Ukraine that would require the Biden administration to approve some liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects, according to people familiar with the matter. 

The wording, which has yet to be finalised, could set a threshold that effectively requires some LNG export projects that are awaiting approval by the Department of Energy to be green-lighted, one of the people said. The situation remained fluid and discussions on the matter remained in flux, said the person, who was granted anonymity to discuss non-public deliberations. 

It remains to be seen if the package that Speaker Mike Johnson brings to the floor, which could also include border security reforms, could get the needed votes to pass the House and if President Joe Biden would sign it into law.

Ukraine says Russia targeting power after deadly Kharkiv attack

Russian forces stepped up their attacks on Ukraine’s second-largest city overnight as part of a recent campaign against the country’s power infrastructure that has surpassed the intensity of similar barrages last year.

“Russians are trying to leave certain large cities without power,” Ukrenergo CEO Volodymyr Kudrytskyi said at a briefing in Kyiv.

Russian forces targeted Kharkiv with a barrage of explosive-laden Shahed drones, with some of them evading air defences. Four people were killed, and at least 12 wounded, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said on Thursday on Telegram.

As part of those attacks, energy infrastructure was also damaged in the region, Kudrytskyi said without specifying what had been hit. Ukraine was forced to apply emergency power cuts to 350,000 households in Kharkiv and the surrounding region on Thursday, as well as in neighbouring Dnipropetrovsk region, the Energy Ministry said separately on Telegram. 

Drones in the latest barrage damaged apartment blocks in the city, the National Police said. Three of those killed were rescue workers who arrived at the site of the attack shortly before a second strike targeted the area. Ukraine downed 11 drones out of the 20 fired by Russia overnight, most targeting Kharkiv, the country’s Air Force command said on Telegram.   

In the neighbouring Dnipropetrovsk region, a solar power plant was hit, the ministry said.  

Russian troops have stepped up their use of highly destructive guided bombs, missiles and drones against Kharkiv, which lies close to the border with Russia, as Putin, emboldened by Kyiv’s growing deficit of ammunition and manpower, is betting he can force Ukraine into submission.

Russia and France hold rare talks over phone on war in Ukraine

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu held a rare phone talk with his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu on the war in Ukraine.

The Defence Ministry in Moscow said in a statement on Wednesday there was “a readiness for dialogue on Ukraine”, adding that “the starting points could be based” on a 2022 deal proposed by Russia in Istanbul that was rejected by Kyiv. Plans for an international summit in Geneva to support Ukraine’s conditions for peace talks were pointless without Russia’s participation, according to the statement.

A French Defence Ministry statement on the call didn’t mention a discussion on possible talks. Lecornu condemned Russia’s “war of aggression” in Ukraine and pledged France would continue to support Kyiv for as long as necessary to protect its sovereignty and restore peace and security in Europe.  

The Russian and French ministers last held phone talks in October 2022, according to state television in Moscow.

Russia holds up two Egyptian wheat ships due to trader dispute

Russian authorities were holding up two Egyptian ships loaded with wheat for export, in the latest sign that a domestic dispute between a key grain trader and the agriculture regulator is hindering deliveries abroad.

The ships are carrying cargoes from Grainflower, which people familiar with the matter say is an export partner of Russian trader TD Rif. Rif has been targeted by the industry watchdog recently.

Egypt’s Supply Minister Ali El-Mosilhy told Bloomberg News the ships were denied permission to sail because they did not have the right documents, and were being held up in Russian ports.

They were meant to sail by the end of March, according to a January tender, and Egypt was waiting for a response from Russian embassy officials on the issue, El-Mosilhy said. The people linking Grainflower to Rif asked not to be identified as the topic was sensitive.

Last month, Rif’s owner said the firm’s exports were being blocked and that it was facing pressure to sell its assets for a “negligible price”. Meanwhile, the agriculture regulator has said it was stopping some exports by Rif due to “systematic inconsistencies” in grain safety and quality. Egypt is a major importer and a key customer for Russian exporters. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Ukraine is loosing people and territory everyday as this bickering is going on, even if billions are released today it will take months for the weapons to appear.
    Kiev has lowered the recruitment age to 25 from 27, Russia has artillery now and millions of meat to put in the grinder.
    The more people and equipment Russia looses the more concessions to be demanded.
    It will take many months and some miracle to turn the situation around under the current weapon supply.
    Western politics have no solid foreign policy they create as they go, with Trump presidency looming and the last Zelensky encounter things look grim for Ukraine.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.