Envoy predicts new Congress Ukraine aid will come before proposals to seize Russian assets
Oksana Markarova (Photo: EPA/ WILL OLIVER)

As the need for weapons grows ever more urgent in Ukraine's defense against Russian aggression, Ambassador Oksana Markarova voiced confidence in an interview for the Voice of America that new US military aid packages will soon be approved at a faster pace than proposals to seize Russian assets can be enacted.

The priority for the Ukrainian embassy is the approval of the $61 billion package by Congress. Currently the US Department of Defense and the head of the US Department of Defense, Lloyd Austin, are "doing a lot to help us as much as possible in any situation."

Markarova noted that some units "are very active in allocating [aid] from their own reserves."

"But we also have to understand: the sooner this bill is adopted, the less we will have to ask ordinary employees to show heroism here. They, too, must act absolutely within their rules," the diplomat noted.

If there are currently no new allocations, Ukraine will continue to receive aid from Washington from previous purchases. The ambassador explained that many of the allocations that were made in the summer, "especially those purchased under the USAI program for $3 billion, $2 billion", were all purchases.

"That's why the supplies continue. And if we don't see new allocations, the supplies are actually going, there is no decrease. Does this mean that we have enough weapons? No," Markarova stated.

Ukraine needs more weapons, for this, new bills and authorizations for drawdowns from its own stockpiles, as well as new purchases, are urgently needed.

"Therefore, all eyes are now on the Congress," the ambassador to Washington said.

When asked whether Russian assets can really become an alternative source of financing for Kyiv, Markarova noted that this is part of a single process.

The seizure of Russian assets should not be considered separately from additional aid, the fate of which now depends on American lawmakers.

According to Markarova, everyone is currently working on plan "A", which involves both obtaining additional assistance and confiscation. She drew attention to the fact that confiscation of Russian assets is not plan "B".

"We have been working on this since last year. It is not an either-or. That is, we are working on the confiscation of sovereign assets and on the seizure of private assets, both in Ukraine and in the United States," the Ukrainian diplomat stated.

The ambassador also believes that the Congress will approve a new aid package for Kyiv faster than the procedure for transferring Russian assets will be agreed. Therefore, these assets can hardly be considered an alternative way of financing if Congress continues to delay the approval of the $61 billion package.

According to Markarova, the transfer of Russian assets to Ukraine, even if the decision is made quickly, will be "a matter of months."

"This decision requires the participation of a very large number of countries," she explained, adding that although the share of assets that the United States has is not the largest, it is very important what position America will take.

The ambassador hopes that immediately after the approval of the package of aid to Ukraine and Israel and the resolution of budget issues, which are of primary importance for the US government, Congress will start considering bills on the confiscation of Russian assets.

In October 2023, the leaders of the EU countries during the summit in Brussels approved the plan, which provides for directing billions of euros of income received from frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine.

In December, media reported that the European Commission plans to collect 15 billion euros to help Ukraine from the proceeds of Russian assets frozen in the European Union. Solely revenues from assets of the Central Bank of Russia will be targeted.

After that, the Czech government decided to freeze all Russian state assets. Switzerland also froze financial assets belonging to Russian citizens and companies worth 7.7 billion Swiss francs ($8.81 billion) as part of sanctions for military aggression against Ukraine.

On January 4, 2024, the White House announced that the United States has run out of money to finance military aid to Ukraine, so Congress must urgently approve a new support package.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that "on January 8, the Senate returns from vacation, on January 9, the House of Representatives comes back, and, without exaggeration, a decision can be made on any following day" about funds for Ukraine.

House Speaker Mike Johnson is considering direct negotiations with US President Joe Biden regarding additional funding for Ukraine and border security.

On Friday, the representative of the White House, John Kirby, said that the United States had stopped military aid to Ukraine, so Congress must urgently approve a new package to support Kyiv.