Key updates on Oct. 16:
- Zelensky, Pritzker meet in Kyiv, discuss recovery of Ukraine's energy system
- German minister: US financial aid 'indispensable' for Ukraine
- Russia admits most of its drones come from China
- Energy Ministry denies introducing scheduled blackouts
- Qatar to return 3 Ukrainian children deported to Russia
The majority of drones Russia currently has are imported from China, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Oct. 16 in a rare acknowledgment.
"Today, (our) drones are mostly all from the People's Republic of China," Siluanov said at the meeting of the State Duma's Budget and Taxes Committee.
"We are grateful to our partners, but we need to develop our own resource base and allocate the necessary funds."
The minister said that Russia is devoting 60 billion rubles ($600 million) to boost the domestic production of drones.
"The task is that by 2025, 41% of all drones will be labeled Made in Russia," the minister said.
Although U.S. intelligence reported in July that China is exporting large amounts of dual-use technologies with potential military applications to Russia, including drones, this is the first public acknowledgment by a Russian official.
The Washington Post said in August that shortly after the U.S. report had been made public, China decided to limit its exports of long-range civilian drones over fears of their military use.
While China has officially positioned itself as a neutral party in the ongoing Russian full-scale war against Ukraine and called for a diplomatic solution, Beijing has not denounced the Kremlin's aggression and has continued to develop close mutual ties.
Drones have played a major role for both sides, serving as a means for reconnaissance and air strikes. Russia has also been importing Shahed "kamikaze" drones from Iran, regularly used in strikes on civilian targets, and has reportedly even developed their domestic-made variants.
Zelensky welcomes Representative for Ukraine's Economic Recovery in Kyiv
"Your visit is a signal of strong support. It is important for us to see that the United States is ready to help Ukraine get through the winter period and protect critical infrastructure facilities," Zelensky told Pritzker during the meeting.
The president thanked his U.S. counterpart, the U.S. government, and the American people for providing Ukraine with defense, financial, and humanitarian assistance to resist Russia's full-scale invasion.
Zelensky and Pritzker discussed how to ensure Ukraine's macro-financial stability in 2024, attract private investment for reconstruction projects, and use frozen Russian assets as a significant source of funds for the country's recovery.
"Despite the ongoing Russian aggression, the recovery of Ukraine is a priority as it allows us to provide the necessary conditions for the fight and victory of our state," the president said.
"The participation of American companies in the reconstruction of the Ukrainian energy system is of particular interest," he added as Kyiv prepares for a possible Russian campaign of mass strikes against the country's energy system.
Moscow attempted such a strategy during the fall and winter of 2022-2023, which led to frequent blackouts and a lack of heating across the country.
German minister: US financial aid 'indispensable' for Ukraine
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said it's essential the U.S. continues to provide Ukraine with financial support alongside European commitment, calling the U.S. aid "indispensable," the German broadcaster ARD reported on Oct. 16.
His statement comes as the U.S. assistance for Kyiv is facing opposition in Congress from a hardline faction of the Republican Party.
Lindner took part in a meeting between European finance ministers and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who briefed the ministers on the country's domestic political debate, according to ARD.
Yellen said, cited by Reuters, that support for Ukraine remained a "top priority" for the U.S. and the European Union.
She also reportedly pledged that President Joe Biden's administration would fight to ensure that a bipartisan majority in the U.S. Congress approved "robust" and uninterrupted aid to Kyiv.
"We cannot allow Ukraine to lose the war for economic reasons when it has shown an ability to succeed on the battlefield," the U.S. treasury secretary added.
On Oct. 15, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed that Biden's administration was preparing a funding package worth significantly more than $2 billion, which would include military aid for Ukraine and Israel.
Earlier, Sullivan said that the U.S. was more than capable of simultaneously providing aid to both Ukraine and its long-time ally Israel, currently embroiled in a war with Hamas in Gaza.
Qatar to return 3 Ukrainian children deported to Russia
Three Ukrainian children who were illegally deported to Russia are in the process of being released to Qatari diplomats in Russia, who will then facilitate their return to Ukraine, an unnamed Qatari official told Reuters on Oct. 16.
In addition, the source revealed that Qatari diplomats had assisted in repatriating a seven-year-old boy on Oct. 13 through Estonia. The boy reunited with his grandmother and is en route back to Ukraine.
Two boys, ages two and nine, and a 17-year-old girl will be accompanied by Qatari officials on their journey back to Ukraine, either over land to Latvia, Estonia, or Belarus, or by plane via Qatar.
The return of the four children resulted from months of high-level talks involving Moscow and Kyiv facilitated by Qatar. It should be considered "only a first step," according to Lolwah Al Khater, Qatar's minister of state for international cooperation.
The children were returned after Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's Commissioner for Children's Rights, shared a short list of deported children with Qatari diplomats, who verified their identities and worked with Ukrainian officials to locate their parents.
The unnamed Qatari official said that Kyiv had initially approached Qatar to help mediate the repatriation process, and that "both Ukrainian and Russian officials have been cooperative."
It is unclear how many more children Moscow will allow to be reunited with their families.
According to the Ukrainian government, more than 19,500 children have been confirmed as being illegally deported, and 386 have been returned.
However, Lvova-Belova claimed that more than 700,000 children had been deported.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants in March 2023 for Lvova-Belova and Russian President Vladimir Putin on war crimes charges for their role in the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children during the full-scale invasion.