EU looks to forge plan for rushing ammo to Ukraine

STOCKHOLM: Ukraine on Wednesday (Mar 8) urged the EU to ramp up promised ammunition supplies as defence ministers debated plans to raid their stockpiles and place joint orders for shells worth €2 billion.

Ukraine’s Western backers warn that Kyiv is facing a critical shortage of howitzer shells as it fires thousands each day in its fight against a grinding Russian offensive.

EU ministers meeting with their Ukrainian counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov in Stockholm discussed a three-pronged push to meet Kyiv’s immediate needs and bolster Europe’s defence industry for the longer term.

“Our priority number one is air defence systems, and also ammunition, ammunition and again ammunition,” Reznikov said as he arrived for the meeting.

The first part of the plan, as laid out by the EU’s foreign policy service, envisions using a billion euros (US$1.06 billion) from the bloc’s joint European Peace Facility to get member states to send shells in their stocks to Kyiv within weeks.

Ukraine’s European allies have already used up much of their supplies, committing some €12 billion of military support, with €3.6 billion coming from the joint fund.

There are questions over how many shells Europe can spare without leaving itself too vulnerable.

“Everyone agreed on the urgency to move because everybody agrees on the objective which is to support Ukraine as much as possible as quickly as possible,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

The second part of the plan is to pool EU and Ukrainian demands to place massive joint orders that would incentivise European ammunition producers to ramp up their capacity.

Baltic state Estonia initially proposed spending four billion euros on a million shells for Ukraine and wants more new funds committed.

Borrell said he was proposing using another one billion euros that is already in the joint kitty to cover Ukraine’s needs. That amount would exhaust the fund.

But Reznikov had earlier insisted that figure was “not enough because we need one million rounds, and approximately it should be four billion euros”.

“We need more,” he said.

Borrell said he hoped to agree on a firm plan to send the ammunition to Ukraine by a meeting of foreign ministers on Mar 20.

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