G7 leaders will meet Thursday for the first day of their summit, hoping to seal a deal on using frozen Russian assets to help war-torn Ukraine, AFP reports.

President Volodymyr Zelensky will join US President Joe Biden and leaders from Italy, Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Japan in the southeastern Italian region of Puglia.

The G7 leaders want a $50 billion loan for Kyiv, secured against the future profits from interest on €300 billion ($324 billion) of Russian central bank assets frozen after the February 2022 invasion, according to the AFP account.

The EU agreed earlier this year to use interest on the Russian money for Ukraine, worth around €3 billion ($3.24 billion) per year.

But the idea at the G7 is to use this to provide faster help in the form of a massive loan – although key questions such as who issues the debt and who shares the risk are still being hammered out, according to the report.

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Both France and the UK agreed to providing additional aid to Kyiv seemingly based on seizure of Russian assets in EU banks.

For example, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office on Wednesday said a deal had been agreed on providing $50 billion for Ukraine before the end of the year, but said that technical details still needed to be finalized, according to AFP.

Britain, meanwhile, said it would announce up to $310 million in new bilateral assistance to Kyiv at the summit, saying leaders would “explore all lawful avenues by which immobilized Russian assets can be used to support Ukraine.”

Zelensky Discusses Peace, Prisoners With Senior Vatican Official
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Zelensky Discusses Peace, Prisoners With Senior Vatican Official

President Zelensky praised the Vatican’s efforts in seeking peace and releasing prisoners of war in talks with a senior official, a contrast from previous tensions between Kyiv and the Holy See.

The US is also apparently on board with the use of Russian assets to be given to Ukraine.

Biden’s administration also plans to announce at the summit “new steps to unlock the value” of Moscow’s money.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was guarded about what this may entail, saying the G7 conference would only create “a framework” for use of the Kremlin cash.

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NATO Secretary General and Hungarian PM agree not to block aid to Kyiv

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban agreed on Wednesday that Budapest would “not block” plans for NATO to deliver weapons to Ukraine.

In return, the Hungarian leader was given a guarantee that his country would not be obliged to contribute to an initiative for NATO to take over the role of overseeing arms supplies and training for Kyiv’s forces from the United States, according to AFP.

Stoltenberg said this allows NATO defense ministers to approve the proposal at a two-day meeting in Brussels starting Thursday, ahead of a summit of alliance leaders in Washington next month.

Hungary has objected to the push to get NATO involved in weapon supplies, claiming it could drag the alliance into the war with Russia. It has already refused to supply arms to Ukraine.

Hungary agreed not to block Stoltenberg’s efforts to get NATO members to pledge to provide support worth 40 billion euros ($43 billion) a year to Ukraine for as long as it takes.

“What the prime minister and I have agreed today is that Hungary will not block other allies to agree a pledge for financial support to Ukraine and the leading role for NATO in coordinating support to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said at a joint press conference with Orban in Budapest.

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“Today, we received guarantees that in the case of the Russia-Ukraine war, Hungary will not have to participate in military actions outside its territory,” Orban told reporters at the press conference with Stoltenberg.

“Hungary will neither contribute money nor send people to this war, nor will Hungarian territory be used for involvement in this war,” Orban said.

US Global Hawk aids Ukraine by spying on Russian forces in Crimea

A US Air Force Global Hawk reconnaissance drone got unprecedentedly close to the latest round of Ukrainian missile strikes against targets in Crimea. The rare sortie placed one of the Pentagon’s most capable and expensive spy planes in airspace near Russian-occupied territory at the same time as Ukrainian forces hit targets there.

A Kyiv Post review of open-source flight tracking data found that the Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk, call sign FORTE12, arrived on station to airspace southwest of Russia’s main military base in the Crimean city of Sevastopol at least three hours before Ukrainian forces fired missiles at Russian military targets, and the aircraft loitered in the area for about seven hours before flying back to its base in Sigonella, Italy.

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A high-tech intelligence collection platform crammed with radars, direction-finding electronics and multi-spectral sensors; the Global Hawk is the US’s premier reconnaissance drone. American flight planners had sent the aircraft over the Black Sea repeatedly, but during past Ukrainian strikes US flight controllers had kept the $200 million-plus aircraft out of Black Sea air space and far from Crimea during actual missile strikes by Kyiv.

US Air Force intelligence collection commanders have pushed Global Hawk patrols into air space over the Black Sea for years, following Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. The flights typically take place twice a week and per open-source flight tracking data almost never route the aircraft closer than 150 kilometers from Russian-controlled territory.

Russian military analysts have accused the Pentagon of using the flights to collect targeting information that is passed on to Kyiv, and of turning off the aircraft’s transponders off from time to time to allow the spy planes to monitor “Russian” territory more clandestinely. Air Force spokesmen have stated that the flights are not provocative and fully in accordance with international law.

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