IOn the night of this Thursday, Russia once again sent numerous combat drones against Ukrainian targets. There was an air alert after midnight, including in the Odessa area on the Black Sea. Initially nothing was known about impacts or damage. The Ukrainian General Staff in Kiev reported on Wednesday of 80 Russian attacks. “The operational situation in the east and south of Ukraine remains difficult,” it said about the situation at the front.
According to media reports, a serious explosion occurred on Wednesday evening at the test site of a Russian arms factory 1,000 kilometers east of Moscow. The Russian state news agency Tass confirmed the incident. An explosion and column of fire that could be seen on social networks did not come from an accident, but from the planned test of a rocket engine. The agency reported this, citing local civil protection. This representation could not initially be independently verified.
According to reports, the explosion occurred on a site belonging to the Votkinsk machine-building factory in the Udmurt Republic. Among other things, Russian nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles are built in the factory. There were initially no indications that Ukraine was responsible for the explosion. In recent weeks, Ukraine has increasingly used drones to remotely attack Russian oil and gas industry facilities.
Ukraine claims frozen assets
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for all frozen Russian assets to be transferred to his country. “Everything should be confiscated and used for counterterrorism,” Zelensky said in a video speech on Thursday evening. Ukraine is working vigorously with its partners to ensure that a decision is made about Russian assets. This possible source of financing is also becoming more important for the country, which has been suffering from Russia's war of aggression for almost two years, because other financial flows are stalling. A billion-dollar aid package failed in the US Senate due to the domestic political dispute between Republicans and Democrats.
Zelensky also spoke to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Kiev about Russian assets that are frozen abroad. “We really need a unified and strong decision,” Zelensky said. “A decision that proves that together we respect international law and have no regard for the terrorist state.” According to Zelenskyj’s previous information, the sum is estimated to be 300 billion US dollars (278 billion euros).
There are plans in the EU to send Ukraine the proceeds from frozen assets of the Russian Central Bank as a first step. This would also mean several billion euros per year. Expropriation of Russian assets is considered legally more difficult. The group of seven large democratic industrial nations (G7) also wants to use Russian money for Ukraine. The USA and Great Britain are moving forward with these plans.
Aid package for Ukraine fails in the US Senate
US President Joe Biden's Democrats failed in the Senate with a billion-dollar aid package for Ukraine. As expected, a bill that also includes aid for Israel and stricter regulations on immigration policy did not receive the necessary majority in a vote in the parliamentary chamber on Wednesday. The Republicans blocked the bill. Former US President Donald Trump, who wants to return to the White House for the Republicans, had previously expressed opposition to the agreement.
The release of new US aid to Ukraine is being blocked by the domestic political dispute between Democrats and Republicans in Parliament. On Sunday, senators presented a proposal for a $118 billion aid package. It included military aid for Ukraine and Israel as well as funds for better protection of the US southern border against illegal migration. On Monday, however, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives announced that they considered any examination of the draft to be a waste of time. The US Senate should also reject it.
IAEA chief explores situation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
Meanwhile, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, again visited the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which is occupied by Russian troops. It was his fourth visit to the largest nuclear facility in Europe since the Russian war of aggression began in February 2022. Grossi did not comment on his findings. It was about the protection of the plant, nuclear safety, the condition of the reactors and the cooling system as well as the qualifications of the operating team and other aspects. “Unless this conflict ends without there being a nuclear accident with radiological consequences, we cannot say that our job is done,” he said.
Russian troops have been occupying the nuclear power plant with six 1,000 megawatt reactors since the beginning of March 2022. The world public is alarmed because the facility has been repeatedly shot at. The Russian and Ukrainian sides blamed each other for this. Since September 2022, IAEA observers have been constantly in the shut down plant, but according to their own statements they do not have access everywhere.
Scholz in Washington
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is visiting the USA this Thursday. Military aid for Ukraine is an important issue alongside the situation in the Middle East and the upcoming NATO summit in the summer. A meeting is initially planned for Thursday evening with members of Congress from President Joe Biden's Democratic Party and former President Trump's Republican Party. On Friday, Scholz will meet Biden in the White House.