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Estonia pledges $1.3 billion in long-term support for Kyiv as Zelensky tours Baltics

by Martin Fornusek January 11, 2024 2:12 PM 4 min read
Estonian President Alar Karis welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Estonia on Jan. 11, 2024. (President Volodymyr Zelensky/X)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Estonian President Alar Karis pledged to allocate 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) for Kyiv until the year 2027, a major commitment from a country of 1.3 million people, after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Estonia as part of his Baltic trip.

Estonia, as well as Lithuania and Latvia, have been among Kyiv's staunchest supporters against Russian aggression, committing the highest gross domestic product (GDP) shares of all the allies.

Ukraine's head of state arrived in Tallinn earlier on Jan. 11 as a second step of his tour. A day earlier, Zelensky was in Lithuania, where he received a pledge of nearly $220 million for the next three years.

The president is scheduled to finalize his tour in Latvia.

During a joint press conference with Zelensky, Karis called on the EU to increase its military support for Ukraine as the country enters its third calendar year of an all-out war with Russia.

"Ukraine needs more and better weapons. The capacity of the EU's military industry must be increased so that Ukraine gets what it needs, not tomorrow, but today," Karis said.

Estonia's defense contributions to Ukraine have amounted to around 500 million euros ($550 million) since the start of the full-scale war, which is around 1.4% of the country's GDP.

Over the next four years, Tallinn pledged to allocate 0.25% of its GDP to military assistance for Kyiv.

Karis noted that Tallinn has concrete plans for helping Ukraine's reconstruction, adding it would be fair to use frozen Russian funds for this purpose.

Last November, an Estonian parliamentary committee approved a governmental bill to use frozen Russian assets to fund Ukraine. The document still has to be approved by the majority in the parliament and signed by the president.

Estonia to send $88 million in military aid to Ukraine
Estonia’s Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said he hopes that this package would prompt other allies to boost their support for Kyiv as worries about hesitation grow.

Karis also revealed that the topic of ceasefire is being raised in informal meetings among Western allies to "test the mood." The Estonian president pledged that the position of his country remains unchanged: "There will be peace when Ukraine wins the war."

Zelensky also ruled out a ceasefire with Moscow, saying that a "pause would play into (Russia's) hands" and could be used to "crush" Ukraine.

"Estonia's unwavering support for Ukraine, our people, and our defense is evident today, during my visit, and throughout the war," Zelensky said on the social media platform X.

"President Alar Karis and I discussed cooperation at the European institutions' level, our potential in Europe, frontline developments and prospects, and justice."

Following his meeting with the Estonian president, Zelensky held a press conference with the country's prime minister, Kaja Kallas.

Zelensky thanked Kallas and her country for their support, noting that Estonia "was with Ukraine since the very beginning (of the full-scale war)" and underscoring Tallinn's military assistance and backing of EU aspirations.

Ukraine's president also appreciated Estonia's support for Kyiv's efforts to join NATO and in talks on security guarantees.

Responding to a journalist's question on concrete steps Estonia and other allies can take to aid Ukraine, Zelensky said that the EU's initiative of providing 1 million artillery shells should be finalized.

Ukrainian and Western officials warned that the EU plan to supply the full amount of promised shells by March will likely miss its deadline. In November, European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that 480,000 rounds have been transferred or are on their way, less than half of the promised number.

Zelensky also emphasized the need for a united approach within the EU and NATO in supporting Ukraine, pointing out how a lack of consensus continues to stall 50 billion euros ($55 billion) in funding for Kyiv.

Zelensky further underscored the importance of cooperation in cyberspace security. Last December, Ukraine and 10 partner countries, including Estonia, launched the Tallinn mechanism, a joint initiative on combatting cyber threats.

Estonia is not the only Baltic country pledging additional support this week.

During Zelensky's trip to Vilnius, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda revealed that "in January, we (Lithuania) will again send ammunition, generators, detonation systems, and in February - M-577 armored personnel carriers."

Lithuania's newly-announced 2024-2026 support plan for Kyiv of 200 million euros ($219 million) focuses mainly on the Vilnius-led demining coalition, presented last July. The Baltic country also plans to train about 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers by the end of 2024.

Since the start of the full-scale invasion, Lithuania has committed extensive military support, including various munitions and NASAMS air defense launchers, and hosts a repair facility for Leopard 2 tanks damaged in Ukraine.

Lithuania has already provided Ukraine with around 500 million euros ($543 million) in defense assistance since the outbreak of the full-scale war.

Lithuania pledges almost $220 million in 3-year support for Ukraine
“In January, we will again send ammunition, generators, detonation systems, and in February - M-577 armored personnel carriers,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda announced during the press conference.
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