Senior EU Official Channels Increasing Gloom over Russia’s War in Ukraine

This handout picture taken and released on November 16, 2023 by Ukrainian Emergency Service shows rescuers clearing debris of a residential building damaged after a Russian strike in Selydove, Donetsk region. As a result of the missile strike four people were killed and three people were injured, Emergency Service announced. (Photo by Handout / AFP)
This handout picture taken and released on November 16, 2023 by Ukrainian Emergency Service shows rescuers clearing debris of a residential building damaged after a Russian strike in Selydove, Donetsk region. As a result of the missile strike four people were killed and three people were injured, Emergency Service announced. (Photo by Handout / AFP)
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Senior EU Official Channels Increasing Gloom over Russia’s War in Ukraine

This handout picture taken and released on November 16, 2023 by Ukrainian Emergency Service shows rescuers clearing debris of a residential building damaged after a Russian strike in Selydove, Donetsk region. As a result of the missile strike four people were killed and three people were injured, Emergency Service announced. (Photo by Handout / AFP)
This handout picture taken and released on November 16, 2023 by Ukrainian Emergency Service shows rescuers clearing debris of a residential building damaged after a Russian strike in Selydove, Donetsk region. As a result of the missile strike four people were killed and three people were injured, Emergency Service announced. (Photo by Handout / AFP)

A European Union decision next month to launch membership talks with Ukraine is "at risk" and there is no agreement in the bloc to grant Kyiv a further 50 billion euros ($54 bln) in aid, a senior official said on Friday.

The downbeat comments chime with increasing fatigue in Ukraine, which has been struggling to push back against a Russian invasion since February 2022, and a more gloomy mood setting in among Kyiv's Western backers as the war drags on.

From regular reassurances that the EU would stand by Ukraine "as long as it takes", the official said latest discussions in the bloc over further support to Kyiv were a "reality check".

"Leaders... were realizing it's quite expensive," said the official, who is involved in preparing a Dec.14-15 summit in Brussels of the EU 27 member states' national leaders. "How do we pay for this?"

A proposal by the bloc's executive European Commission to revise the bloc's long-term budget to assign another 50 billion euros for Ukraine through 2027 was criticized from several sides, said the official.

The official said a recent budget ruling by the German constitutional court further tightened the room for maneuver for the bloc's biggest financial contributor.

"We cannot allow Ukraine to go bankrupt, it's not an option for us. But it's not easy," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss talks between EU leaders held behind closed doors.

The person further cast doubt on EU starting formal membership talks with Ukraine, saying expectations for a decision at the same summit next month were "at risk".

The official quoted as one reason Hungary's resistance potentially obstructing the unanimity necessary for such a move.

The person also said some EU leaders proposed to return to the topic in March, 2024, after the next assessment promised by the executive European Commission of whether Ukraine met the remaining conditions.

While Hungary was openly calling for a new EU strategy on Russia's war in Ukraine, the official said others in the bloc were also increasingly asking questions about the future of the war following failed hopes for Ukraine's counteroffensive.

"Maybe we have had too high expectations," said the official. "Will we continue to support Ukraine financially, military? Do we have the means to do this? Are we sure that the US will be following us over the coming years?"

"It's not that people have been calling for peace. Individual members have said very clearly that we at some point need an end to this. The consensus is to continue to provide support to Ukraine, but some of those questions are coming."



North Korean Official Criticizes US for Expanding Support for Ukraine 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un smile during their meeting at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport outside Pyongyang, North Korea, on June 19, 2024. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un smile during their meeting at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport outside Pyongyang, North Korea, on June 19, 2024. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
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North Korean Official Criticizes US for Expanding Support for Ukraine 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un smile during their meeting at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport outside Pyongyang, North Korea, on June 19, 2024. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un smile during their meeting at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport outside Pyongyang, North Korea, on June 19, 2024. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

A top North Korean military official on Monday criticized the United States over its expanding military assistance to Ukraine, reaffirming the reclusive state's support for Moscow in the Ukraine war, according to state media KCNA.

Washington and Seoul have been increasingly alarmed by deepening military cooperation between Russia and the North, and have accused them of violating international laws by trading in arms for Russia to use against Ukraine. Moscow and Pyongyang have denied any arms transfer.

A pact signed by Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during Putin's visit to Pyongyang last week commits each side to provide immediate military assistance to the other in the event of armed aggression against either one of them.

Putin on Monday thanked Kim for his hospitality during the trip which brought ties to an unprecedented level, the Kremlin said on Monday.

Analysts say the pact would lay the framework for arms trade between the two countries and facilitate their anti-US and anti-West coalition.

Pak Jong Chon, one of North Korea's top military officials, said Russia has the "right to opt for any kind of retaliatory strike" in a statement carried by KCNA on Monday, adding if Washington kept pushing Ukraine to a "proxy war" against Russia, it could provoke a stronger response from Moscow, and a "new world war".

He referred to comments by the Pentagon last week that Ukrainian forces can use US-supplied weapons to strike Russian forces anywhere across the border into Russia.

Senior officials of South Korea, the US and Japan condemned "in the strongest possible terms" deepening military cooperation between North Korea and Russia in a joint statement released by Seoul's foreign ministry on Monday.

Russia may have received about 1.6 million artillery shells from North Korea from August to January, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, analyzing data from a US security nonprofit C4ADS that shows 74,000 metric tons of explosives moved from Russia's far east ports to other sites mainly along the borders near Ukraine.

Putin's mutual defense agreement with North Korea has the potential to create friction with China, which has long been the isolated state's main ally, the top US military officer said on Sunday.

North Korea plans to send construction and engineering forces to Russia-occupied territories of Ukraine as early as next month for rebuilding work, a South Korean cable TV network TV Chosun reported earlier, citing a South Korean government official.

Those forces, working overseas under the disguise of construction workers to earn hard currency for the regime, would be moved from China to those Russia-held regions, the network said. South Korea's foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment on the TV Chosun reports.