Western allies to send precision rockets, missile systems to Kiev
When the new rockets arrive, it will be the first time Ukraine's rocket range has grown significantly since the United States provided HIMARS in late June 2022.
Despite international concerns that pouring more weapons into Ukraine would mean more weapons ending "in a big black hole", Western allies pledged precision rockets and missile systems to Ukraine, after President Volodymyr Zelensky begged for sophisticated weapons to allegedly "assist maintain control of the beleaguered eastern city of Bakhmut."
This came at the fleet of Zelensky's speech at a summit with EU leaders in Kiev during which he said, "No one will surrender Bakhmut. We will fight as long as we can."
"If weapon (deliveries) are accelerated -- namely long-range weapons -- we will not only not withdraw from Bakhmut, we will begin to de-occupy Donbass," he claimed.
More and more weapons!!
The Pentagon announced, on Friday, a new rocket-propelled precision bomb that may nearly increase Kiev's strike range against the Russians as part of a new $2.2 billion US arms deal for Ukraine.
Ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDB), a weapon with a maximum range of 150 kilometers, are also part of the new package, according to Pentagon Spokesperson Pat Ryder. These bombs pose a threat to Russian troops and depots that are located far from the front lines.
However, "the delivery of the GLSDB likely won't be for several months due to contracting, production, and delivery timelines," said Pentagon spokesperson Lt Col Garron Garn, refusing to specify how many would be delivered.
Concurrently, Italy and France have agreed to purchase 700 Aster-30 anti-aircraft missiles for SAMP/T antimissile systems to be supplied to Kiev.
The weapon, which was developed and manufactured by the European consortium Eurosam, can reportedly intercept and neutralize the full spectrum of air threats, as per media reports. This includes missiles within a radius of 25 kilometers (15.5 miles), as well as aircraft within 100 kilometers.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Italy has already provided Kiev with five packages of military supplies worth about 1 billion euros, Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said earlier this month.
On Tuesday, the Italian parliament announced it passed a decree to continue supplying lethal weapons to Kiev in 2023.
A sixth package of military supplies to Ukraine is currently underway, which will include air defense system Samp/T with ammunition, drones of Israeli design, as well as heavy artillery equipment, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on Thursday.
On his account, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, who had pleaded for the weapons, expressed his gratitude, claiming the systems would "help us save thousands of lives" from Russian attacks.
Kiev is also asking for fighter jets.
It has already secured pledges from the West for deliveries of modern battle tanks and, after months of hesitation, Germany authorized the delivery of Leopard 1 tanks.
EU's second oil price cap
As the EU's first oil price cap still roils energy markets, the Group of Seven industrialized countries and Australia approved a price cap on Russian refined oil products to accompany an embargo on ship deliveries of the products, which comes into force on Sunday.
Already in December, the EU put a ban on Russian crude oil entering the bloc by sea and imposed a $60-per-barrel restriction on Russian crude exports to the rest of the globe with its G7 allies.
The new embargo and price limitations will target Russian refined oil products such as gasoline, diesel, and heating fuel arriving on ships.
The second round of sanctions on diesel, petrol, and heating fuel, arriving on ships by the EU is due to come into effect on February 5.
The Kremlin warned that the sanctions would cause global financial instability.
This week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen estimated that the crude oil price cap costs Moscow approximately 160 million euros ($170 million) every day.
Ukraine's corruption scandals on the table
At the Kiev summit, the EU hailed Ukraine's "considerable efforts" to start the reforms required for joining the bloc but urged it to go further.
Corruption is reportedly a major source of concern in Europe. It is worth noting that Ukraine has lately sacked top officials in connection with corruption charges, with raids this week on a political oligarch and a former interior minister.
"What exactly did we agree upon today?" Zelensky said in his regular evening address. "There is an understanding that it is possible to start negotiations on Ukraine's membership in the European Union this year."
Von der Leyen warned that the process was merit-based and there could be "no rigid timelines" on either talks or membership.
Corruption swept Ukraine long before the beginning of the war. Today, corruption has Kiev by the throat especially as hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons and aid stream into the country and with the cost of reconstruction activities anticipated to be in the billions. Furthermore, many have been warning that foreign weapons being supplied to Ukraine are sold on the black market, most notably in Africa.