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File image of Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a European Council summit Alamy Stock Photo

EU pays final tranche of Ukraine support, leaving country without European finance as of next month

The EU has sent €1.5 billion each month this year.

THE EUROPEAN UNION today paid the final tranche of a multibillion-euro support package to Ukraine to help keep its war-ravaged economy afloat this year, leaving the country without a financial lifeline from Europe as of next month.

The EU has sent €1.5 billion each month in 2023 to ensure macroeconomic stability and rebuild critical infrastructure destroyed in the war.

It is also helping to pay wages and pensions, keep hospitals and schools running, and provide shelter for people forced from their homes.

To ensure that Ukraine has predictable, longer-term income, the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, proposed to provide the country with €50 billion.

At a summit last week, 26 of the 27 nation bloc’s leaders endorsed the plan, but Hungary imposed a veto.

The decision came as a major blow to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, days after he had failed to persuade US politicians to approve an additional $61 billion (€55.5 billion) for his war effort.

Hungary’s nationalist leader, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is widely considered to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the EU. Critics accuse him of putting Moscow’s interests ahead of those of his EU and Nato allies.

Orban has called for an immediate end to the fighting, which has ground on for almost two years, and pushed for peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv.

Last week, he accused his EU partners of seeking to prolong the war and said that sending more money to Ukraine was a “violation of (Hungary’s) interests”.

Orban is set to meet again fellow EU leaders on 1 February to try to break the deadlock.

He later said he has accepted an invitation from Zelenksyy to hold a bilateral meeting in the future, a potential first between the two leaders since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at an annual international news conference in Budapest today, Orban said he agreed to Zelenskyy’s proposal for a future meeting during a brief conversation between the two leaders on the sidelines of a 10 December swearing-in ceremony for Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei.

“(Zelenskyy) said, ‘We should negotiate,’ and I told him I’d be at his disposal. We just have to clarify one question: about what?” Orban said, adding that the Ukrainian leader requested a discussion on his country’s ambitions to join the European Union.

The €50 billion package is included in a revision of the bloc’s long-term budget.

More money is needed to pay for EU policy priorities given the fallout from the war, including high energy prices and inflation, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Announcing that 2023 macro-financial support to Ukraine had come to an end, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen offered no hint of what help Kyiv might receive come January.

Commission officials have not been able to answer questions about what financial support might be available.

“We need to continue supporting Ukraine to ensure its economic stability, to reform and to rebuild. This is why we are working hard to find an agreement on our proposal of €50 billion for Ukraine between next year until 2027,” she said in a statement.

The EU has provided almost €85 billion, including in financial, humanitarian, emergency budget and military support, to Ukraine since Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion on 24 February, 2022.

Meanwhile, Ukraine today said Russian shelling left three people dead and several more injured at mining facilities in Toretsk, a town in the war-battered eastern Donetsk region.

The region has seen the brunt of fighting of Russia’s nearly two-year invasion, and the Kremlin claimed to have annexed it along with three other eastern and southern territories last year.

“Two bombs hit the territory of one of the mines in Toretsk.

One person was killed and two others were injured,” Interior Minister Igor Klymenko said in a statement on social media.

“Two more bombs hit the territory of another mine. Two people were killed and three were injured,” he added.

He said that the first mine hit had been cut off from electricity and that 32 miners who were underground at the time of the attack had been brought to the surface.

Klymenko added that the Russian strikes damaged administrative buildings and equipment at the mine.

-With additional reporting from AFP

Press Association