European Union officials pledged their unwavering support Friday to help Ukraine rebuild its infrastructure against Russia's ongoing war, while the U.S. announced a fresh round of security assistance worth more than $2 billion.
Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv for the 24th EU-Ukraine Summit. The EU officials said the union will support Ukraine "for as long as it takes."
In a joint statement Friday, the officials promised to help rebuild Ukraine's devastated critical infrastructure, providing energy support and services for the country "to get through the winter," and beyond. They said that so far, the EU and its member states have provided assistance worth $570 million in the area of energy and reconstruction, and another $525 million for humanitarian efforts.
The officials underscored their commitment to promote Ukraine's integration in the European Union, but they said there was no promise of fast-track membership.
Kyiv applied to become an EU member shortly after Russia's invasion and wants to start formal accession talks as soon as possible.
'There are no rigid timelines, but there are goals that you have to reach,' von der Leyen told the news conference in response to a question about Ukraine's accession drive. One of the conditions for Ukraine's EU integration is its fight against corruption. The EU Commission president praised Kyiv for its expanded efforts to clamp down on graft.
Michel and von der Leyen condemned Russia's escalating war against Ukraine and its citizens as "a manifest violation of international law, including the principles of the U.N. Charter."
They emphasized the need to establish a Special Tribunal at The Hague for the investigation and prosecution of war crimes against Ukraine.
They also emphasized that the EU will never recognize as lawful any illegal annexation of Ukraine by Russia.
In addition, the EU officials unveiled a new package of sanctions, the 10th, against Russia. It will target the trade and technology that supports its war against Ukraine, von der Leyen said.
'With our partners, we must deny Russia the means to kill Ukrainian civilians and destroy homes and offices,' she said in a tweet.
US defense assistance
The United States announced Friday it would provide an additional $2.175 billion worth of military aid for Ukraine, including conventional and long-range rockets for U.S.-provided HIMARs, as well as other munitions and weapons. According to a U.S. official, the longer-range precision-guided rockets would double Ukraine's strike range for the first time since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing Friday the package includes "critical air defense capabilities to help Ukraine defend its people, as well as armored infantry vehicles and more equipment that Ukraine is using so effectively, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, artillery ammunition."
Ryder added that 'as part of the USAI [Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative] package, we will be providing Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs to Ukraine."
Friday's aid package opens the door to many more deliveries of Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs, which have a range of 94 miles, according to a document reviewed by Reuters.
USAI is an authority under which the United States procures capabilities from industry rather than delivering equipment that is drawn down from Defense Department stocks. This announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process to provide additional capabilities to Ukraine's Armed Forces as part of U.S. efforts to strengthen Ukraine's military over the near and long-term.
In total, the United States has now supplied nearly $30 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, the Defense Department reports. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $32 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, and more than $29.3 billion since the beginning of Russia's unprovoked, full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022.
Wagner Group recruitment
Meanwhile, Britain's Defense Ministry said Friday the Wagner Group's recruitment of convicts has dropped significantly. The ministry said the Russian Federal Penal Service experienced a decrease of 6,000 inmates since November. In comparison, the penal service had reported a drop of 23,000 inmates from September to November 2022.
"Wagner recruitment was likely a major contributing factor to this drop," the British ministry said.
The Ukrainian presidential office said overall in the last day, Russian shelling in Ukraine had killed at least eight civilians and wounded 29 others.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.