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Kuleba calls for Europe to suspend ammunition sales to third countries

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 26, 2024 11:01 AM 3 min read
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the 'Ukraine. Year 2024' forum in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 25, 2024. (Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Anadolu via Getty Images)
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Europe should suspend ammunition exports to third countries other than Ukraine in light of the shortages faced by the Ukrainian military, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview with RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) published on Feb. 26.

Kyiv is being confronted with critical shortages of ammunition, as $61 billion in funding from the U.S. remains stuck in Congress, causing defense aid deliveries to run dry.

Reports suggest Ukraine could face a catastrophic shortage of ammunition and air defenses within weeks.

"All contracts for the export of ammunition produced in Europe to third countries must be put on hold, and all such ammunition should be sent to Ukraine," Kuleba told RND.

"Every cartridge produced in Europe should serve the purpose of defending Europe."

Ukraine's European allies are aware of the lack of ammunition and have admitted they were "too late" in deciding to "ramp up their own production, sign long-term contracts, and put new production lines into operation," according to Kuleba.

"Unfortunately, we are now paying for these mistakes."

The European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said on Feb. 19 following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels that he urged member states to procure ammunition for Ukraine outside the bloc if this source of supply is "better, cheaper, and quicker."

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Borrell said that the European defense industry claims to be capable of increasing ammunition production.

The ministers discussed how to increase the EU's provision of shells to Ukraine through bilateral and European frameworks, according to Borrell.

Earlier in February, Czechia began to push a plan to jointly finance the purchase of 800,000 artillery shells outside the bloc. Prague has suggested that Europe could turn to arms companies in South Korea, Turkey, or South Africa, according to Politico.

Canada has signaled that it is ready to help Czechia with the plan, but details of the cooperation are still being established, according to CBC News on Feb. 22. Canada may contribute up to $22 million, CBC News said.

Plans to buy ammunition from outside the bloc face opposition from France, Greece, and Cyprus. While France wants to boost its domestic defense industry, Greece and Cyprus do not wish to buy arms from Turkish producers, given their tense relations with Ankara.

Denmark responded to Kyiv's calls for help by deciding to donate all the artillery rounds from its stockpiles to Ukraine.

"If you ask Ukrainians, they are asking us for ammunition now, artillery now. From the Danish side, we decided to donate our entire artillery," Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 17.

Ukraine's withdrawal from the city of Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast on Feb. 17 demonstrated Ukraine's need for more artillery shells, as well as air defense systems, long-range weapons, and fortifications, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said.

Umerov had said earlier in February that Ukraine was unable to fire more than 2,000 shells per day, around a third of Russia's average daily shell usage.

Estonia's Foreign Intelligence Service reported on Feb. 13 that as well as producing new shells, Russia refurbishes Soviet stocks of artillery ammunition, allowing it to produce as many as 4 million units in 2023.

"It is almost certain that Western ammunition deliveries to Ukraine in 2024 will not be able to keep pace," and the gap "in available artillery ammunition between Ukraine and Russia is expected to widen even more in 2024," the report said.

The EU aims to deliver over 1 million shells to Ukraine by the end of 2024.

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Hiding beneath sparse winter cover in a crude, muddy ditch, a great steel monster lies in wait for an opportunity to attack. Adorned on either side with painted plus signs, the gun’s huge barrel looks up at the sky over the Bakhmut front line, across which thousands
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