Kharkiv under attack, Ukrainian officials play down call for donor meeting

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The Ukrainian city of Kharkiv came under a Russian missile attack on Friday morning, Mayor Ihor Terehov said, with at least six blasts registered; meanwhile, officials have talked down a letter requesting an urgent meeting with international donors as the war rages into its second year.

At the same time, air defences were active in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv as it came under the attack of Russian drones, regional governor, Maksym Kozytskyi, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Meanwhile, a letter from Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal requesting an emergency meeting with international donors and seen by Bloomberg news agency was part of “systemic work” with the country’s partners, the state-run Ukrinform news agency quoted a senior source as saying late on Thursday.

The country’s economy depends heavily on financial support from partners. Kyiv has been concerned about whether it will continue as new aid packages have been recently blocked both in the European Union and the United States.

Bloomberg reported earlier on Thursday that Shmyhal had sent a letter to an international group coordinating funds for Ukraine this month, saying it was “imperative that we receive sufficient, prompt, and predictable external financing, beginning January 2024.”

The letter also asked donors to meet in January ahead of a scheduled meeting the following month, the report said.

“We explain: You should not panic. This is part of systemic work with partners,” Ukrinform said in a post on Telegram linking to its coverage of Bloomberg’s report.

“This was reported to Ukrinform by a high-ranking source familiar with the situation, commenting on the report by Bloomberg,” Ukrinform’s Telegram post added.

On its website, Ukrinform quoted the unnamed source as saying the letter was sent to participants in the Multi-agency Donor Coordination Platform, which coordinates funds for Ukraine, after it met on Dec. 19 and “determined that budget support was to be the main direction” of its work in 2024.

“This is part of systemic work with partners,” Ukrinform quoted the source as saying. The platform’s steering committee comprises senior officials from Ukraine, G7 countries and the EU.

Shmyhal said on Dec. 21 that Ukraine had received the last €1.5 billion euro tranche from the €18 billion package expected from the European Union for 2023.

For 2024, Ukraine hopes to receive €18.5 billion from the EU and more than $8 billion from a US package containing vital military assistance. Voting on both packages was moved to the beginning of the following year.

Vessel hit

Also on Thursday, a Panama-flagged bulk carrier that was heading to the River Danube port to load grain hit a Russian mine in the Black Sea, injuring two crew members, Ukrainian officials said on Thursday.

The incident that took place on Wednesday was the latest instance of a civilian vessel hitting an explosive in the Black Sea. Kyiv has said increased Russian attacks on shipping and port infrastructure are to blame.

Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A shipping source speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters the Greek-operated VYSSOS was the vessel that had been hit. The vessel’s Athens-based manager, listed in databases as Nava Shipping, could not be immediately located for comment.

“A Panama-flagged civilian vessel was blown up on an enemy sea mine in the Black Sea … The vessel lost its course and control, and a fire broke out on the upper deck,” Ukraine’s southern military command said on Telegram.

A captain and a sailor, an Egyptian citizen, were injured, and the latter was taken to hospital in the city of Izmail, the head of the Odesa regional prosecutor’s office told a briefing.

He said the incident happened early on Wednesday at a river mouth. According to the ship tracking and maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic, the vessel stopped updating its position.

It was heading to Izmail, the British maritime security company Ambrey told Reuters. The mine hit its stern, and detonation caused equipment and machinery failure.

There were 18 crew members onboard: 13 Egyptians, three Ukrainians, and two Turkish citizens.

Ukraine says Moscow has increased attacks on Ukraine’s port infrastructure since mid-July when it quit a U.N.-brokered deal that allowed safe passage of Ukrainian grain shipments via the Black Sea.

Kyiv has since established an alternative route, which hugs the western shores of the Black Sea. It said Russian forces have been repeatedly dropping explosive devices in its vicinity.

Source: EURACTIV