Norway plans $7 billion in aid to Ukraine over five years

FILE PHOTO: Norway's Prime Minister Stoere arrives for meeting with Ukraine's President Zelenskiy in Kyiv

By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) -Norway's prime minister proposed on Monday that his country, a major petroleum exporter, should provide some 75 billion crowns ($7.3 billion) in aid to Ukraine over five years.

The Nordic country has seen its government income swell to record levels following Russia's invasion of Ukraine as the price of gas sold to Europe soared last year.

Jonas Gahr Stoere, responding to criticism from some countries and parts of the opposition at home that Norway was indirectly profiting from the war, announced in late 2022 a plan for multi-year aid to Ukraine, without saying how much.

In 2023, half the assistance would fund military needs while the rest would cover humanitarian aid, although this split could change in coming years, he said.

"This is the largest aid programme Norway has ever had," Stoere told Reuters, adding that the money would be distributed according to the Ukrainian government's priorities and not necessarily transferred directly to the authorities.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the five-year package "unprecedented."

"It is a significant contribution to our future victory over the aggressor & successful post-war recovery," Zelenskiy said on his official Twitter account.

Humanitarian aid would go to organisations that "have the most experience in delivering humanitarian help", while military aid would be coordinated with U.S. and European allies to "avoid bottlenecks", the Norwegian prime minister said.

"We must ensure we avoid corruption and other misuse, which is an important priority for Ukraine. But it is a country at war right now," Stoere said.

Norway should also give an extra 5 billion crowns in aid this year to poor countries suffering from soaring global food prices because of the Ukraine war, he said.

Stoere's minority government must seek parliament's approval, which will increase the annual spending of Norway's $1.4 trillion wealth fund.

The main opposition Conservative Party broadly backed the plan, subject to final negotiations in coming weeks.

"Broadly, with the structure they propose, they will get our support," Conservative Leader Erna Solberg told Reuters.

In 2022, Norway became Europe's largest gas supplier due to a drop in Russian gas flows. It is also Europe's second-largest oil producer after Russia.

Inflows to the wealth fund from the state's petroleum revenues swelled last year to the tune of 1.1 trillion crowns or $108 billion - nearly three times the previous record, set in 2008.

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Writing by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Nick Macfie, Jan Harvey and Tomasz Janowski)