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EU okays transfer of $1.5B to Ukraine drawn from frozen Russian assets

  For the first time, European Union foreign ministers have  approved the transfer of approximately €1.4 billion  ($1.5 billion) in military...

 For the first time, European Union foreign ministers have approved the transfer of approximately €1.4 billion ($1.5 billion) in military and financial aid to Kyiv. This aid will be funded by interest profits drawn from frozen Russian central bank assets.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced the approval on Monday, coinciding with reports that Washington is preparing to send Ukraine another arms package worth $150 million. The EU also imposed a raft of sanctions on Russia, along with entities in China, Turkey and India.  

The EU's decision comes amid escalating tensions following Kyiv's long-range missile strikes into Crimea over the weekend.

Russia accused Ukrainian forces of using U.S.-supplied Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) with a range of nearly 200 miles and satellite imagery for the attack, which resulted in at least four deaths and over 100 injuries.

In response, Russia's Foreign Ministry declared that Washington "has effectively become a party" to the war and threatened "retaliatory measures."

Budapest has been vetoing further funding of Kyiv's war effort through an off-budget fund known as the European Peace Facility (EPF) worth €6 billion ($6.4 billion) for almost a year. Another fund holding €5 billion ($5.3 billion) is also blocked.

Borrell acknowledged this "structural difficulty" during a press conference following the foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg.

Using interest profits from seized Russian assets was seen as a viable alternative. Such measures mark an unprecedented escalation in the economic war against Russia. 

G7 leaders agree to give $50 billion frozen Russian funds to Ukraine

Earlier this month, G7 leaders agreed to provide Ukraine with $50 billion by the end of the year using frozen Russian funds.

According to the South China Morning Post, a legal analysis noted that Hungary abstained on the decision to use the frozen assets for Ukraine and since the new aid is derived from Russian Central Bank assets, not EU funds, Budapest's veto does not apply.

Therefore, Borrell stated, "it's not necessary" to involve Hungary in the decision-making process. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto condemned the move, stating it violated EU rules.

Approximately 90 percent of the aid will be allocated for weapons to support Kyiv's war, while 10 percent will go toward direct financial aid.

EU diplomats indicated that Berlin and Prague would first use the proceeds to send Ukraine more air defenses and artillery shells. The European Commission reported freezing roughly €210 billion ($224.5) in Russian central bank funds.

Between the U.S. and Europe, about $280 billion in Russian assets have been seized.

Euroclear, a Brussels-based financial institution, holds the majority of European-held assets and claims to have extracted €4.4 billion ($4.7 billion) in interest profits last year.

Additionally, the ministers announced new sanctions against Russia, including asset freezes and travel bans on 69 individuals and 47 entities linked to the Kremlin's invasion.

Organizations based in China, Turkey and India were also hit with an EU export ban over accusations of supporting Moscow’s war effort.

Following a nine-month grace period, the Zeebrugge port in Belgium will be banned from exporting Russian liquefied natural gas to countries outside the EU. The bloc is also targeting 27 vessels allegedly part of Russia's "shadow fleet" used to transport crude oil and circumvent Western economic penalties.

Despite the sanctions, Moscow became the top crude supplier to India and China during the first year of the war.

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