>> Illustrative photo – Ukrainian soldiers fire a self-propelled howitzer towards Russian positions near Bakhmut, March 7, 2023.
Stockholm – The defense ministers of the European Union member states discussed today the strategy of stepping up the supply of artillery ammunition to Ukraine, which includes the allocation of two billion euros (47 billion CZK) from common funds, the head of EU diplomacy Josep Borrell announced after the meeting. Half of the amount would be used for joint purchases of projectiles, the other for reimbursement of supplies sent by individual states. According to Borrell, the plan has broad support, but further discussion of “unresolved issues” is necessary for approval.
Photo gallery: Russian invasion of Ukraine
The shortage of artillery ammunition is currently identified as one of the most pressing problems of the Ukrainian army, whose defense against the Russian invasion entered its second year last month. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov wrote in a leaked letter to his EU counterparts that the Ukrainian army fires about 120,000 rounds per month, but would need at least twice as many. Meanwhile, the supplies of Kiev's Western allies are running thin.
“We need to supply more, but supplies must be fast… I have proposed an approach that is built on three pillars,” he told a press conference after a meeting of EU ministers in Stockholm Borrell.
The first pillar is the allocation of a billion euros, from which member countries would receive compensation for “immediate” shipments of ammunition that they independently decide to provide. This would be another use of the EPF defense fund, from which the union has long been paying member countries part of the weapons and ammunition supplied to Ukraine. To support Kyiv, 3.5 billion euros have been released from this instrument since the beginning of the Russian invasion, and at the end of last year, the member countries approved the strengthening of the fund by another two billion.
The second component of the new plan is the joint purchases of 155-millimeter ammunition through the European Defense Agency (EDA) directly for the Ukrainian army, but also for the stockpiles of member countries. According to Borrell, this procedure will speed up deliveries and also reduce the price. The goal of the third pillar is to increase production capacity in the EU.
“We have to have, I'm sorry, a war mentality,” said Borrell. “I think I can say there was general agreement on this course of action,” he continued. The head of EU diplomacy hopes that a “concrete, formal decision” will come at the meeting of the EU Council scheduled for March 20.
The Czech government has been making it clear since last month that it supports the joint approach regarding artillery ammunition. “Our support for Ukraine must be intensified so that the country is able not only to defend itself, but to be able to regain all the occupied territories,” Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová said in a press release today. According to the statement, the discussion in Stockholm responds to the “urgent needs of the Ukrainian army.” .
Estonia, which is one of the main supporters of increasing military aid to Ukraine, began promoting joint ammunition purchases in February. According to Borrell, “everyone” agrees on this goal, but Hungary has refused to participate in arms deliveries from the beginning. At the same time, many EU countries, including the Czech Republic, have long refused to build up EU defense and want to focus primarily on cooperation within NATO.
Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who also participated in today's meeting of EU ministers, nevertheless supported the strengthening of joint defense purchases. for another EU military initiative to support Kyiv after the bloc launched a training mission for Ukrainian troops last year, Borrell said today that the number of Uk by the end of the month, the number of Rajins trained in this way will exceed 11,000.