Milley Declines to Call Drone Downing Act of War

(Bloomberg) — Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that “we are not seeking armed conflict with Russia” after an American spy drone was shot down in a collision with Russian jets.

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Milley told reporters at a news conference in Washington he didn’t know if the Russian jet intentionally hit the drone that crashed in the Black Sea earlier this week. He said the US had video evidence of the incident and there was no doubt Russia’s actions were aggressive.

“As for an act of war – I’m not going there,” Milley said when asked about the possibility by a reporter.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu spoke Wednesday in a bid to defuse tensions.

“We take any potential for escalation very seriously and as such I believe it is important to keep lines of communication open,” Austin told reporters in a briefing. “I think it’s really important that we can pick up the phone and talk to each other.”

Important Developments

  • Austin talks to a Russian colleague after a spy drone crashes

  • EU proposes more aid to Moldova to counter pressure from Russia

  • Secret chip deals reportedly helping US tech flow to Russia

  • Austin calls Russia ‘reckless’ and says drone flights will continue

  • IMF, Ukraine finalize talks on wartime loans in ‘coming days’

  • Poland sees coalition forming for Soviet-era jets to Ukraine

  • Secret chip deals reportedly helping US tech flow to Russia

(All times CET)

IMF, Ukraine Conclude War Loan Talks (8:12 p.m.)

The International Monetary Fund and Ukraine expect to conclude talks on a new loan program estimated to be worth around $15 billion soon.

“Discussions between IMF staff and the Ukrainian authorities have been productive, and very good progress has been made toward agreement on a set of guidelines that could underpin a fund-backed program,” said Vahram Stepanyan, the IMF’s representative in Ukraine , in a statement Wednesday.

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“Employees and authorities expect to conclude the talks in the coming days,” he said after the week-long talks in Warsaw concluded.

A deal would mark the first time the IMF has approved a full-fledged lending program for a nation at war. The Russian invasion, which began over a year ago, has devastated Ukraine’s export economy and infrastructure, killing thousands and driving thousands more from their homes.

Talks between the military chiefs of Ukraine and France (6:53 p.m.)

Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said he spoke to his French counterpart Thierry Burkhard on the phone on Wednesday.

“I spoke about the situation at the front, which is under control despite the difficulties,” Zaluzhnyi wrote on Telegram. The two also discussed air defense and military training issues.

EU proposes more aid to Moldova to counter Russia (17:45)

The European Union is considering providing an additional 40 million euros ($42.1 million) in aid to Moldova’s armed forces to improve their air surveillance, logistics and cyber defences.

The funds would come from the bloc’s European Peace Facility, according to a proposal from the bloc’s foreign policy arm, sent to member states last week and seen by Bloomberg. The new funding, which would be on top of the previous financial support, is still being discussed and has to be approved by EU countries.

The tiny nation that borders Ukraine has been under mounting pressure since Russia invaded its neighbor and its leaders have accused Moscow of trying to overthrow its pro-European government. Russia has denied any interference in Moldova’s internal affairs.

Poland sees coalition emerging for Soviet-era jets to Ukraine (4:41 p.m.)

Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller did not elaborate on which allies would agree to sending MiG-29 aircraft, leaving the decision up to individual states.

In Slovakia, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said his interim government was ready to opt for MiG deliveries but was awaiting final clarification of the details in negotiations. Heger has been forced to settle a legal dispute because his government has limited powers after losing a confidence vote in December.

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Almost a quarter of Ukrainian women live abroad: EBRD (4:36 p.m.)

Almost one in four female pre-war Ukraine population is now outside the country, according to a research note from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Most women were employed before leaving the country, the EBRD said. 13% of men live outside of Ukraine. Most refugees have not found work in host countries, while many are struggling financially. In total, around 35% of Ukraine’s pre-war population now lives far from home, according to the EBRD.

Continue reading: More Ukrainians settle abroad as war rages on

Poland Makes Arrests Linked to Alleged Spy Ring (3:41 p.m.)

Polish authorities detained six foreign nationals accused of installing surveillance devices along railway lines connecting the country with Ukraine, RMF FM radio reported. Intelligence agencies say the arrests are linked to a suspected Russian spy network, RMF said.

The network was focused on Poland’s south-eastern Podkarpackie region on the border with Ukraine, a center of military and humanitarian support to Kiev, the report said. Earlier this month Poland warned the Kremlin was stepping up espionage activities in neighboring Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave, in a bid to escalate tensions.

Austin calls Russia ‘risky’ and says drone flights will continue (3:11 p.m.)

The US will continue its drone flights in international airspace after a Russian plane interfered with a surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, Austin said.

“This dangerous episode is part of a pattern of aggressive, risky and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace,” Austin said at the 10th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. “So don’t be fooled. The United States will continue to fly and operate wherever international law permits. And it is up to Russia to operate its military aircraft safely and professionally.”

Russia Says It’s Trying to Get US Drone Downed (2:34 p.m.)

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“Americans always say they don’t take part in military actions,” Patrushev said. “But this is the latest confirmation that they are directly involved in this war.”

The US blamed Russian planes for causing the crash, a claim Moscow denied. The US said it was trying to prevent the drone, which went down in international waters, from falling into the wrong hands.

Turkey’s Erdogan gives Finland the go-ahead (12:49)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will fulfill his promise to Finland regarding the nation’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, offering the clearest signal yet that he would approve the Nordic country’s entry into the alliance after months of negotiations .

“We will meet the Finnish president and do what our promise requires of us,” state-run Anadolu Agency was quoted as saying Erdogan told reporters in parliament ahead of Finnish President Sauli Niinisto’s visit on Thursday.

US Ambassador Said ‘You Must Be More Careful’: Kirby (12:47 p.m.)

Officials in President Joe Biden’s administration called Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov to the State Department on Tuesday as they warned him about the “reckless, unprofessional conduct” of a Russian pilot involved in the drone incident, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said , to CNN.

The drone has not yet been recovered, Kirby says, adding the US government has done its best to prevent the vehicle from falling into the wrong hands.

Read more: Russian fighter jet collides with US drone over Black Sea (2)

Denmark sets up $1 billion Ukraine fund (11:25)

Denmark has set up a new fund for Ukraine with assets of 7 billion kroner ($1 billion) in 2023 to be used for military, civilian and commercial support, the government said. The Nordic nation, which contributed about 5 billion kronor last year, has also aimed to be one of the largest donors relative to a country’s size, the Treasury said in a statement.

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