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Ukraine war latest: EU ambassadors approve $5.5 billion for Ukraine defense fund in 2024

by The Kyiv Independent news desk March 13, 2024 11:53 PM 7 min read
The national flag of Ukraine and the flag of the EU are flying in the wind on April 24, 2023, in Berlin. (Monika Skolimowska/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Key developments on March 13:

  • EU ambassadors approve $5.5 billion for defense fund for Ukraine in 2024
  • Russian anti-Kremlin militias tell Russian citizens near Ukrainian border to evacuate
  • Russian oil refinery partially shuts down after drone attack
  • Media: Ukrainian drones attack 3 oil refineries in Russia, airfield in Voronezh Oblast
  • 49 injured, 5 killed in Russian attack on Kryvyi Rih.

EU ambassadors have agreed in principle on a top-up of 5 billion euros ($5.5 billion) for the European Peace Facility (EPF) in support of Ukraine's defense needs in 2024, the Belgian Presidency of the EU Council said on March 13.

The EPF has been a key tool for supporting Ukraine's defense capabilities since 2022 but has been largely depleted as member states disagreed on the best way to replenish it and unlock further cash for Ukraine.

"The (European Union) remains determined to provide lasting support to (Ukraine) & ensure that the country gets the military equipment it needs to defend itself," the Belgian presidency said on social media.

The Financial Times (FT) reported on March 12 that EU member states are near the deal on additional funds for Ukraine's defense.

According to the outlet, the agreement will prioritize weapons produced inside the EU but will not exclude those manufactured outside the bloc.

Larger states contributing to the EPF have previously complained that smaller countries with stockpiles of Soviet-era equipment sent outdated military gear to Ukraine and used the reimbursements to modernize their own arsenals.

The FT reported in February that countries like Germany and France want to phase out the reimbursement model this year and instead focus EU funds directly on arms contracts within the continent.

Foreign arms supplies are now critical for Ukraine as assistance from the U.S., a key military donor, has been stalled for months by domestic political infighting.

US announces $300 million defense aid package for Ukraine
This is the first package since last December, as U.S. funds for Kyiv have been blocked by disputes in Congress.

Russian anti-Kremlin militias tell Russian citizens near Ukrainian border to evacuate

Three Russian anti-Kremlin militias issued a joint statement on March 13 telling Russian citizens located by the Ukrainian border to evacuate, saying that they planned to launch attacks against Russian military positions in the area.

The statement came a day after the Freedom of Russia Legion and Siberian Battalion, both militia groups consisting of Russian citizens that fight alongside Ukraine against Russia, crossed the Ukrainian border into Russia's Belgorod and Kursk oblasts and began engaging the Russian military.

The Freedom of Russia Legion later said it had taken control of the village of Tyotkino in Kursk Oblast.

The joint statement, issued along with the Russian Volunteer Corps, appealed to citizens and officials of Belgorod Oblast.

"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin's killers are carrying out massive attacks on peaceful Ukrainian cities, placing their positions between your homes, your children's schools, and government institutions," the statement said.

"The shelling of Ukraine from the territory of Belgorod must stop!"

As a result, the militias said they have been "forced" to fire upon Russian military positions in the area.

They also urged authorities in Belgorod and Kursk oblasts to evacuate civilians in order to prevent casualties.

Russia's Defense Ministry claimed the previous day that it had repelled the militias' incursions and caused hundreds of casualties on the attackers.

The Kyiv Independent cannot verify either the claims of territory seized by the militias or the accounts from the Russian side.

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Media: Ukrainian drones attack 3 oil refineries in Russia, airfield in Voronezh Oblast

Ukrainian drones attacked three oil refineries in Russia, as well as a Russian Air Force air base, and an airfield in Voronezh Oblast overnight on March 13, Ukrainska Pravda reported, citing an unnamed source in the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

Oil refineries were allegedly attacked in Ryazan, in the cities of Kstovo, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, and Kirishi, Leningrad Oblast, according to the media outlet.

The attacks, which Ukrainska Pravda's source called "a continuation of a series of special operations against Russian oil refineries that were launched earlier," were reportedly carried out by the SBU itself.

"Our task is to deprive the enemy of resources and reduce the flow of money from oil and fuel that the aggressor directs to the war and the killing of Ukrainian citizens," the unnamed source told the media outlet.

The SBU, together with other representatives of the Defense Forces, also reportedly attacked the Russian air base in the town of Buturlinovka in Voronezh Oblast and a military airfield in Voronezh.

The Kyiv Independent could not verify the information, and there were no official comments from the Ukrainian authorities.

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Russian oil refinery partially shuts down after drone attack

Certain "technological facilities" of the Novoshakhtinsk oil refinery in Rostov Oblast have shut down after an overnight drone attack, Rostov Oblast Governor Vasiliy Golubev said on Telegram on March 13.

Russian officials have claimed an uptick in the intensity of drone attacks in recent days, with alleged attacks on oil refineries reported in Ryazan Oblast, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Leningrad Oblast, and the city of Oryol.

The Novoshakhtinsk refinery is situated close to the border with the partially Russian-occupied Donetsk Oblast, around 200 kilometers (124 miles) behind the front line.

Golubev claimed earlier on March 13 that three drones had been destroyed on approach to the refinery in the early morning.

The governor published a later update that a drone had fallen onto the territory of the Novoshakhtinsk refinery. There were no casualties, but certain "technological facilities" of the refinery had been shut down, Golubev claimed.

Ukrainska Pravda reported that Ukraine's military intelligence agency, HUR, was responsible for the attack, citing a source in the agency who said the attack was part of a pre-planned and ongoing operation.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that 65 drones had been downed overnight and on the morning of March 13.

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Russian attack on Sumy kills 2 people, injures 8

An overnight Russian drone attack on a five-story apartment building in Sumy killed two people and injured at least eight, Ukraine's State Emergency Service said on March 13.

The bodies of two residents were retrieved from under the rubble in the afternoon, according to the report, which didn't specify the age or gender of the victims.

Earlier, three people were considered missing, and at least 10 were rescued, the authorities reported.

People may still be under the rubble, rescue operations are ongoing.

A total of 15 apartments were damaged and another 30 destroyed in Sumy as a result of a Shahed-type drone attack, the region's administration reported.

Over the past day, Russia attacked two more residential high-rise buildings in Ukraine.

A drone strike on a nine-story apartment building in Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, killed five residents, injured 49, including children. A total of two people were killed, and seven wounded as a result of a bomb attack on a residential building in Myrnohrad, Donetsk Oblast.

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49 injured, 5 killed in Russian attack on Kryvyi Rih

The number of injured in a Russian missile attack against Kryvyi Rih in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast on the evening of March 12 has risen to 49, Governor Serhii Lysak said on March 13.

At least three missile hits were recorded in the city, one of which struck a nine-story building and another hitting the roof of a five-story building.

Lysak's previous update on the casualties said that five people had been killed and 44 wounded.

The governor said on March 13 that 10 adults were still in the hospital, five of them with severe injuries. Seven children were also hospitalized, all with moderate injuries.

Kryvyi Rih, with a population of around 660,000, is the second most populous city in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. It has suffered multiple deadly attacks by Russian forces since the outbreak of the full-scale war.

The hometown of President Volodymyr Zelensky came under a particularly heavy attack in July 2023, which resulted in six people killed and over 70 injured.

"Every day, our cities and villages are subjected to such attacks. Every day, Ukraine loses people to Russian evil," Zelensky wrote on social media following the March 12 attack.

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