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The impact of Western tanks on Ukraine’s counteroffensive and the aid from a chinese company to the Wagner PMC

Tanks for Kyiv, new sanctions from the U.S., and Orbán’s démarche: a week’s summary of Western media

Tanks for Kyiv, new sanctions from the U.S., and Orbán’s démarche: a week’s summary of Western media

The ouster of Ukrainian officials over corruption prompts closer monitoring by the United States of Kyiv’s use of financial aid, while military experts warn that the use of different Western tanks in the spring counteroffensive could be challenging for the Ukrainian army.

Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that Budapest would veto any EU sanctions on Russian nuclear energy, including against Rosatom, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the UN to establish mechanisms to defend and return children and adults deported to Russia.

It was also revealed that Spacety China, a Chinese tech company, provided satellite images to the Wagner PMC and was sanctioned by the U.S. for that.

The Page offers a digest of Western mass media at the end of the January 23–27 business week.


The U.S. is worried about the shake-up over corruption in Ukraine

Since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine, U.S. officials have watched with some anxiety as billions of American dollars flowed into the country, well aware of Kyiv’s history of political corruption and fearing that aid might be siphoned off for personal gain, The New York Times writes.

The ouster of several top officials from Ukraine’s government on January 24 following accusations of government corruption has lent those concerns a fresh urgency. Although U.S. and European officials say there is no evidence that aid to Ukraine was stolen, even the perception of fraud would threaten political support for continued wartime assistance and for the postwar reconstruction effort.

However, U.S. officials insist the recent firings show that President Volodymyr Zelensky is committed to fighting corruption.

Victoria Nuland believes the shake-up in Kyiv to be a good sign. Photo: Getty Images

Victoria Nuland believes the shake-up in Kyiv to be a good sign. Photo: Getty Images

QuoteThe shake-up in Kyiv "sends a very strong signal to others who would try to rip off this war effort and is important for the future of Ukraine," Victoria Nuland, the under secretary of state for political affairs, testified on Thursday during a Senate hearing.

While attention has focused on the possible theft or diversion of American weapons, U.S. officials take comfort in the fact that Ukraine has an urgent incentive to throw every available armament against the invading Russians.

In addition, the United States requires Ukrainian officials to log all military equipment they receive, track its progress to the front lines, and report ammunition expenditure and any damage or destruction of weapons.

But U.S. officials fear that humanitarian aid, and especially direct financial aid, is more at risk of embezzlement or theft.

How the U.S. is recommended to monitor aid to Ukraine

The largest type of cash infusion into Ukraine’s government from the United States — $13 billion of it so far — is called direct budgetary support. Ukrainian officials ultimately decide how to allocate the money.

Erin McKee on how the USAID monitors aid to Ukraine. Photo: usaid.gov

Erin McKee on how the USAID monitors aid to Ukraine. Photo: usaid.gov

Erin McKee, an assistant USAID administrator, told the Senate panel that the agency used "extraordinary measures" to track that funding: the accounting firm Deloitte has sent a team to Kyiv to monitor and audit the aid money. Last fall, Deloitte completed an audit of money flows from the World Bank to the state treasury account for the Ukrainian government budget and found no "significant areas of concern," USAID said. Deloitte has since begun an audit of money flows from the treasury account to recipients.

The U.S. is recommended to budget money for evaluation and monitoring in aid packages, as well as to work with civil society groups as anti-corruption citizen watchdogs, while the intelligence agencies are advised to compile information on the personal networks of Ukrainian officials.

Quote"It’s somewhat risky to rely on a government exclusively to police its own corruption," said Sarah Chayes, a corruption expert who has studied the embezzlement of wartime aid.

Tanks for Ukraine: what could impede the counteroffensive

Nearly a year into the full-fledged war in Ukraine, Western allies finally agreed to send Kyiv the battle tanks, The Washington Post writes.

The first battalion will have roughly 40 tanks, including newer German Leopard 2A6s, and could arrive by spring 2023.

Leopard 2A6 tanks could arrive in Kyiv by spring 2023. Photo: Wikipedia

Leopard 2A6 tanks could arrive in Kyiv by spring 2023. Photo: Wikipedia

But the broader package pieced together this week by the United States and other European nations includes a hodgepodge of tank models, each with different delivery times and unique logistical hurdles. Military experts are unsure if they will have a decisive effect on the battlefield.

Quote"No single weapons system or platform can be a game changer," said Franz-Stefan Gady, a senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

He said the impact of the "limited number" of tanks arriving in March would depend on training and how well the new formations are integrated on the front line.

But because Germany waited so long to decide whether to send tanks, "it is unlikely that the Leopard 2 will play a significant role in any spring offensive," Gady said.

Still, the Ukrainians are now expecting a planned transfer of 14 Challenger 2 tanks from Britain, as well as an eventual delivery of 31 M1A2 Abrams tanks from the United States.

European countries are also dusting off decades-old stocks. Spain has mulled sending a batch of older Leopard 2A4s that have been mothballed for a decade and may need extensive repairs.

Germany is rushing ahead with the newer A6 variant, with thermal imaging and a significantly more powerful high-velocity gun.

The mishmash of different systems makes it "quite difficult from the logistical point," said Sonny Butterworth, a tank expert with the defense intelligence firm Janes.

Ukraine will receive 14 Challenger 2s from Britain. Photo: Wikipedia

Ukraine will receive 14 Challenger 2s from Britain. Photo: Wikipedia

British Challenger 2s use different ammunition from the NATO standard. And when it comes to the Leopard 2s, there are subtle differences between the stocks held by each European country — even if they are the same model.

Quote"The Ukrainians are going to be operating several different types of equipment and they are going to have to contend with having to support them with the right spare parts going to the right units," Butterworth said.

The U.S. decision to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine could have caused disarray without the proper logistical support and maintenance, experts say. One U.S. official said that while Ukrainian forces have shown a considerable ability to maintain and sustain U.S. equipment on the battlefield, operating Abrams tanks requires additional preparation.

Quote"We are confident that we will be able to provide the adequate sustainment and maintenance support after some months," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Poland, which is also building up its own supply of M1 Abrams, could facilitate logistics and maintenance support.

M1 Abrams will arrive in Kyiv from the U.S. and Poland. Photo: Wikipedia

M1 Abrams will arrive in Kyiv from the U.S. and Poland. Photo: Wikipedia

During a first visit to troops on Thursday, Germany’s new Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius, pushed back at claims that the German government may have wasted vital time.

Quote"We didn’t hesitate, we negotiated," he said. "We talked to our allies and our partners and friends."

Orbán’s new démarche: Hungary will block sanctions against Rosatom

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told state radio on January 27 that Hungary would veto any European Union sanctions against Russia affecting nuclear energy, Reuters reports.

Ukraine has called on the 27-nation EU to include Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom in sanctions but Hungary has blocked that.

Orbán will again block sanctions against Russia. photo: Getty Images

Orbán will again block sanctions against Russia. photo: Getty Images

Orbán reiterated in an interview that sanctions on nuclear energy "must obviously be vetoed".

Quote"We will not allow the plan to include nuclear energy into the sanctions be implemented," the Hungarian premier said. "This is out of the question."

Hungary's Paks nuclear power plant has four small Russian-built VVER 440 reactors with a combined capacity of about 2,000 megawatts, which started operating between 1982 and 1987.

It generates about half its power and the plant gets its nuclear fuel from Russia.

Under a deal signed in 2014 with Russia, Hungary aims to expand the Paks plant with two Russian-made VVER reactors with a capacity of 1.2 gigawatts each.

The UN has to establish mechanisms to return children deported to Russia, says Zelenskyy

Russia is violating the "fundamental principles of child protection" in wartime by giving Ukrainian children Russian passports and putting them up for adoption, the U.N.'s refugee agency (UNHCR) chief, Filippo Grandi, told Reuters in an interview.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, after meeting Grandi on Wednesday, called for mechanisms to be established to "defend and return" children and adults deported to Russia since its invasion of Ukraine last February, as well as to punish those responsible.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy urges the protection of children deported to Russia. Photo: Presidential Office

Volodymyr Zelenskyy urges the protection of children deported to Russia. Photo: Presidential Office

Grandi said his agency was unable to estimate the number of children who had been given passports or put up for adoption, as access in Russia was extremely limited.

Quote"We are seeking access all the time, and access has been rather rare, sporadic and not unfettered," he said.

Grandi highlighted two potential future trends in the situation with Ukrainian refugees. According to the UNHCR chief, the warm season could encourage more Ukrainians to return home, as happened in 2022 when the agency observed "hundreds of thousands" of returnees at the end of the summer.

That movement was halted by the onset of the cold as Ukraine's winter has been made harsher this year by Russian missile strikes against energy infrastructure.

Grandi also warned that an escalation of hostilities could trigger a new wave of refugees, although these are likely to mostly be internal.

The U.S. sanctioned a Chinese company for providing satellite images to Wagner

A Chinese company has been helping the Wagner PMC. Photo: Russian propagandist media

A Chinese company has been helping the Wagner PMC. Photo: Russian propagandist media

The U.S. has sanctioned a Chinese company for allegedly providing satellite imagery of Ukraine to support the mercenary Wagner Group's combat operations for Russia, BBC reports.

Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute, also known as Spacety China, is among 16 entities sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on January 26.

Spacety China, which has offices in Beijing and Luxembourg, had provided Terra Tech, a Russia-based technology firm, with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite images of locations in Ukraine, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said in a statement.

SAR is a type of radar technology that can deliver higher resolution images using shorter antennas. On its website, Spacety China describes itself as a "pioneer" in providing commercial SAR technology and says it wants to "make SAR imagery of every point on earth accessible and affordable" to users all over the world.

Quote"These images were gathered in order to enable Wagner combat operations in Ukraine," the statement said.

The department has also sanctioned Spacety's Luxembourg-based subsidiary. Spacety China has yet to respond to the move.

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