Ukraine, Russia battle from the skies as EU aid to Kyiv hangs in the balance | Russia-Ukraine War News

The European Union is caught up in a crucial summit on Thursday that will be dominated by a second attempt to amend the bloc's 50 billion euro ($54bn) budget to help finance Ukraine over the next four years.

That amendment was vetoed by Hungary at a regular summit last December, with 20 billion euros ($22 billion) in military aid to Ukraine for 2024.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, is said to be looking to bring Hungary on board by giving Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the chance to block the continuation of support next year. Money.

That compromise policy changed by Sunday, when the Financial Times reported that the EU had plans to sabotage Hungary's economy if it refused to cooperate.

The details of the plan were secret, but the European Union has its influence.

Its internal market buys about 90 percent of Hungary's exports, and the EU has withheld 30 billion euros ($32bn) for Hungary, of which it promised to release 10 billion euros ($11bn) last December in exchange for Orban's departure. The remaining 26 heads of government voted to grant Ukraine and Moldova official candidate status for the EU.

(Al Jazeera)

Orbán's political director said on Monday that Hungary was ready to consider cooperation, something Orbán reportedly confirmed in comments to Le Point on Tuesday. But EU officials said the deal was still uncertain.

Meanwhile, a $60 billion U.S. aid package for Ukraine is stalled in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans loyal to presidential hopeful Donald Trump are reportedly pushing for a deal with President Joe Biden's administration over border security with Mexico.

EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell said the bloc was close to agreeing to freeze 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in emergency funding from its European Peace Facility. “The moment has not come to weaken our support for Ukraine … on the contrary, we must do more and faster with financial resources, with military equipment, with training of soldiers,” Borrell said.

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The EU established the EPF in 2021 to finance global military operations.

EU aid is crucial for Ukraine, which faces a $43bn budget scarcity This year, it expects to cover $41bn in international aid.

War in the air

Ukraine said a Russian winter offensive was underway to recapture lost territory in Kharkiv and Luhansk and complete the Donetsk victory. But much of the activity was up in the air — some of it focused on the line of communication as part of a Russian effort to undermine Ukraine's defenses.

In a rare appearance on a tour of the defense sector, Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said he hoped to boost production of drones, missiles and air defense missiles used to intercept aircraft.

Air defense missile production had already doubled during the Ukraine war, but that was not enough, he said.

“There are some key issues we need to resolve … there is the question of engines, and there is the question of establishing launcher production,” Shoigu said in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

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(Al Jazeera)

Shoigu's comments appeared to mark a new victory for Ukraine against the Russian target.

Geolocated footage shows a fire at the Rosneft oil refinery in Tuapse on the eastern coast of the Black Sea on January 24. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) claimed responsibility for the attack. Local residents reported multiple explosions, and footage showed drones operating in the area.

The SBU has been developing long-range surface and aerial drones and has successfully used them to attack targets in Russia's Black Sea Fleet and Crimea. This year, it focuses on energy infrastructure. On January 21, it struck the Novatek gas condensate processing plant near St. Petersburg.

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On January 30, Russian officials said they shot down 21 Ukrainian drones launched against Crimea.

Russia has also continued a wave of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, which have intensified since December 29. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia has launched 330 missiles and 600 drones this year.

On January 25, Ukraine shot down 10 of 14 Shahid drones launched by Russia. Four S-300 missiles arrived. Three days later, Ukraine shot down four of eight Russian-launched Shahed drones and a Kh-59 cruise missile. Two Iskandar missiles and three S-300 missiles were found.

Ukraine claimed to have shot down all eight Shahed drones launched the next day, but six S-300 missiles came through. On January 30, Ukraine hit 15 of 35 drones with two S-300 missiles in the biggest barrage.

Cyber ​​warfare

Ukraine's military intelligence says it has scored a major cyber victory in Russia's Far East. Its cyber attack against the Russian “Planet” scientific research center of the Far Eastern branch of space hydrometeorology destroyed 280 servers of the center.

Ukraine estimated it destroyed 2 petabytes worth of “unique research developed over many years.”

Ukraine's military intelligence (GUR) center said it received the satellite data and provided the information to at least 50 Russian government agencies, including the Ministry of Defense (MoD).

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(Al Jazeera)

“Dozens of strategic institutions of the Russian Federation, working for 'security' and playing a key role in supporting Russian occupation forces, will be without critical information and services for a long time,” GUR said.

GUR estimates it has caused $10m in structural damage through lost servers and software that cannot be replaced under sanctions. Russia has so far proven very adept at defying sanctions.

Bloomberg News cites declassified Russian Customs Service data showing that Russia imported $1bn worth of US and European microchips last year despite sanctions – up from $2.5bn in 2022, but a much larger figure.

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Information warfare

Russia was active in the information sector.

Geospatial footage released on January 24 showed a Russian Ilyushin-76 transport plane that crashed in the Russian region of Belgorod on the border with Ukraine.

The Russian MoD said it shot down the Ukrainian plane using two air defense missiles tracked by Russian radar, killing six of its crew, three military personnel and 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war for exchange.

“As the Ukrainian leadership is well aware, according to the established procedure, today Ukrainian military personnel will be transported by military transport planes to Belgorod airfield for transfer,” Russia's MoD said.

“According to a previously reached agreement, the event was to take place in the afternoon at the Kolotilovka checkpoint on the Russian-Ukrainian border.”

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(Al Jazeera)

Ukraine shot down the plane regardless, Moscow said, “pursuing the goal of blaming Russia for the destruction of the Ukrainian military.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated the allegations two days later.

Ukraine's military intelligence confirmed a prisoner exchange was taking place and said it was investigating the circumstances of the crash.

Russia may have had a motive for the information campaign accusing Ukraine of “terror”.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations' highest court, is set to rule Friday on whether Russia violated international law by invading Ukraine.

Ukraine brought the case to the ICJ days after the February 2022 invasion, arguing that Russia violated international law by falsely claiming genocide against ethnic Russians living in Ukraine as a basis. Russia unsuccessfully tried to drop the case.

If the ICJ rules against Russia, it will be its second high-profile condemnation since Putin was found personally responsible for the abduction of Ukrainian children in March last year.

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