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As U.S. funding to Ukraine is cut, Europe and Kyiv put on a brave face

EU foreign ministers convened in Kyiv for their first ever meeting outside the bloc on Monday, broadcasting their support after a pro-Russian candidate won an election in Slovakia and the U.S. Congress left Ukraine war aid out of its spending bill.

Expert says Ukraine would notice lack of funding by late November

Dozens of people, mostly men in suits, sit around tables set up as a large rectangle in a well-appointed, carpeted room.

EU foreign ministers convened in Kyiv for their first ever meeting outside the bloc on Monday, broadcasting their support after a pro-Russian candidate won an election in Slovakia and the U.S. Congress left Ukraine war aid out of its spending bill.

Kyiv brushed off the wobbles on both sides of the Atlantic, especially the prospect that the U.S. congressional vote, which excluded aid to Ukraine from an emergency bill to prevent a government shutdown, represented a deeper change in policy.

"We don't feel that the U.S. support has been shattered … because the United States understands that what is at stake in Ukraine is much bigger than just Ukraine," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters as he greeted the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

As for the election victory of pro-Russian Slovakian former prime minister Robert Fico, Kuleba said it was "too early to judge" the impact on politics there, noting that a new leader would still have to form a coalition.

An awkward time

Monday's meeting in Kyiv was touted by Borrell as a historic first, and provided striking photo opportunities for a succession of ministers in front of EU flags in the war-time capital.

He told a news briefing with Kuleba the EU remained united in its support for Ukraine and that he had proposed an EU spending package for Kyiv of up to $7.18 billion Cdn for 2024, for which he hoped to have agreement by then.

Kuleba said it would help both Ukraine and the EU to have more clarity on the judicial aspects of transferring Russian assets frozen in the West to help fund Ukraine's reconstruction efforts.

"I am sure that Ukraine and the entire free world are capable of winning this confrontation. But our victory depends directly on our co-operation with you," Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the ministers, according to his website.

The United States, the EU and the United Kingdom have provided massive military and financial support to Ukraine, enabling it to stand up to the Kremlin's attack. The assistance is crucial for Ukraine's weakened economy and has so far been open-ended.

But the meeting came at an awkward time. The summer is coming to a close after a slower-than-expected Ukrainian military counter-offensive, without the major success that Western leaders had hoped to see before autumn mud clogs the treads of their donated tanks.

Pentagon urges more Ukraine aid

The Pentagon is warning the U.S. Congress that it is running low on money to replace weapons the U.S. has sent to Ukraine and has already been forced to slow down resupplying some troops, according to a letter sent to congressional leaders.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, urges Congress to replenish funding for Ukraine.

Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord told House and Senate leaders there is $1.6 billion US left of the $25.9 billion Congress provided to replenish U.S. military stocks that have been flowing to Ukraine.

WATCH | Pro-Russia party wins in Slovakia:

EU foreign ministers, Ukraine put on brave face despite U.S. aid cuts

8 hours ago

Duration 2:18

EU foreign ministers convened in Kyiv for their first-ever meeting outside the bloc on Monday, broadcasting their support after a pro-Russian candidate won an election in Slovakia and the U.S. Congress left Ukraine war aid out of its recent spending bill.

Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said if the aid doesn't keep flowing, Ukrainian resistance will begin to weaken.

"If there's no new money, they're going to start feeling it by Thanksgiving [Nov. 23]," he said.

Writing on Telegram, Ukrainian parliament member Oleksiy Goncharenko said Sunday that Kyiv needed to adopt new measures to ensure the continued support of both American officials and the general public. Without it, Goncharenko said, Ukrainians have "practically no chance" of defending themselves.

He set forward a list of proposals that included permanently posting Ukrainian delegates in Washington.

"We need to speak the language of money with the U.S.: How will the United States benefit from Ukraine's victory? What will the U.S. get? What will American taxpayers get?" Goncharenko wrote. "We need to change strategy. We need to act differently. Let's fix this situation. We cannot lose."

Moscow says West will tire of war

Moscow touted the congressional vote in the United States as a sign of increasing division in the West, although the Kremlin said it expected Washington to continue its support for Kyiv.

The vote omitting aid was "a temporary phenomenon. America will continue its involvement in this conflict, in fact direct involvement," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

"But we have repeatedly said before that according to our forecasts, fatigue from this conflict, fatigue from the completely absurd sponsorship of the Kyiv regime, will grow in various countries, including the United States."

Elections are looming in several Western countries, above all next year in the United States where former president Donald Trump is leading the Republican field in his bid to return to the White House. Several high-profile, right-wing Trump supporters in Congress have called for a halt to Ukraine aid.

Republicans already control the House of Representatives, one of the two houses of the U.S. Congress. Although most Republican lawmakers still support Kyiv, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was forced to rely on Democrats to pass the weekend measure to keep the government open, and might need to rely on them again to support any bill to fund Ukraine. Right-wingers have threatened to try to remove him.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday reassured allies of continued U.S. financial support for the war effort, even after Congress adopted a short-term funding package that dropped assistance for Ukraine in its battle against Russia.

A taller grey-haired man in a suit, puts his hand on the shoulder of a shorter, bearded man in a green button-up shirt.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday that Biden had rallied more than 140 countries to condemn Russia's invasion and built a coalition of more than 50 countries to provide aid to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia's finances are deteriorating in part over sanctions.

"There is a strong, very strong international coalition behind Ukraine," Jean-Pierre said. And if Russian President Vladimir Putin "thinks he can outlast us, he's wrong."

Slovakian election winner wants no ammo sent to Ukraine

In Europe, pro-Russian former prime minister Fico won the most votes in Slovakia's election on the weekend and will get a first chance to form a government. His campaign had called for "not a single round" of ammunition from Slovakia's reserves to be sent to Ukraine.

"We are not changing that we are prepared to help Ukraine in a humanitarian way," Fico said at a news conference after his victory. "We are prepared to help with the reconstruction of the state, but you know our opinion on arming Ukraine."

Fico was given two weeks to form a government. To do so, he would have to establish a coalition with at least one other party that does not publicly share his position on Ukraine.

A man shown in medium close-up purses his lips.

Russia's Peskov defended Fico, saying it was "absurd" that politicians who support their country's national interest were labelled "pro-Russian."

Slovakia, a NATO state with a small border with Ukraine, has taken in refugees and, under the outgoing government, has provided a disproportionately major supply of weapons, notably being among the first to send fighter jets.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Western allies must keep up the military aid "because if we don't deliver any weapons from the EU, from NATO, from other countries, then this war is over but with the wrong consequences."

With files from The Associated Press

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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