EU leaders agree 1m artillery shells for Ukraine
EU leaders have endorsed a plan to send Ukraine 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition in the next 12 months to help fight Russia’s invasion.
EU foreign and defence ministers already approved the plan earlier this week, while leaders gave their political blessing to the plans at their regular spring summit in Brussels on Thursday (24 March).
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky thanked them via video call.
He also asked for aircraft and long-range missiles, according to EU officials.
Estonia’s prime minister Kaja Kallas had pushed to send ammo to Ukraine at a previous summit last month, as Ukraine is facing shortages a year into its defence against Russian forces.
"We all have to also replenish our own stocks and we have to send ammunition to Ukraine. What is critical is sending ammunition to Ukraine fast, because that might bring a change in this war," Kallas said as she arrived at Thursday’s talks.
Under the EU plan, EU countries will deliver ammunition to Ukraine from their own stocks, then countries plan to procure ammo jointly for themselves and Ukraine. As a third step, the EU’s arms industry will ramp up production.
"Ukraine is protecting her territory, protecting civilians being killed under Russian bombs, we are just doing what is right, helping them, I am not worried about escalation," Slovakia’s prime minister Eduard Heger said on Thursday.
Latvian premier Krišjānis Kariņš said: "Ukraine is fighting for our basic values. We need to make to make sure that we can supply them with the arms so that they can succeed in this fight".
EU leaders, in their written conclusions, welcomed the ministers’ decision to "urgently deliver ground-to-ground and artillery ammunition to Ukraine and, if requested, missiles, including through joint procurement and the mobilisation of appropriate funding including through the European Peace Facility [EPF], among to provide 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition in a joint effort".
The EU has earmarked €1bn for the supply of shells, and possibly missiles, from the EPF, an EU fund from which €7bn has been slated to help Ukraine.
Poland and other close allies of Ukraine among EU countries want the EPF to be topped up by another €3.5bn.
Ukraine’s use of artillery shells — 4,000 to 7,000 a day, compared to Russia’s 20,000 to 50,000 — was outrunning Western manufacturing capacity, the Nato secretary general told the Guardian newspaper earlier this week.
"The current rate of ammunition expenditure is higher than the current production rate," Jens Stoltenberg said.
As part of the European initiative, earlier this week, 17 EU countries and Norway signed up to a two-year, fast-track procurement deal for 155mm artillery rounds and a seven-year project to acquire multiple ammunition types.