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Media: Fiala didn't disclose details on Czech-led shell initiative for Ukraine in Fico's presence

by Kateryna Denisova and The Kyiv Independent news desk March 15, 2024 3:58 PM 3 min read
Petr Fiala, Czech Republic's prime minister (R), greets Robert Fico, Slovakia's prime minister, as he arrives for a meeting in Prague, Czechia, on Feb. 27, 2024. (Milan Jaros/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala avoided mentioning some of the details about the Czech-led initiative to provide Ukraine with artillery ammunition during a meeting that involved his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico, Aktualne reported on March 14, citing an unnamed diplomatic source in Czechia.

Czech President Petr Pavel said in February that Prague had identified 500,000 155 mm shells and 300,000 122 mm shells outside Europe that could be bought and sent to Ukraine after the necessary funds were allocated to the initiative.

At the meeting convened by French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in late February, Fiala wanted to talk about the progress of the initiative to source rounds for Kyiv in non-EU countries, including the price and origin of the shells, according to the media outlet. The meeting was initially supposed to involve 15 officials but has eventually grown to 21, including Fico, Aktualne reported.

Elected in September 2023 on a populist, Ukraine-skeptic platform, Fico halted arms supplies from Slovakia's military stocks and has repeatedly criticized both defense assistance for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.

Czech PM: Czech initiative receives commitments for 200,000 more artillery shells
The Czech-led initiative to provide Ukraine with artillery ammunition received “non-binding commitments” for a further 200,000 shells, in addition to the confirmed purchase of 300,000 rounds, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on March 12, according to the Czech Press Agency (CTK).

When Fiala learned that Fico would be at the table, several points about the Czech initiative were allegedly removed from his speech, and the Czech prime minister personally conveyed the most sensitive details to several leaders, according to Aktualne.

"Yes, we crossed it (points) out," an unnamed source told the publication.

Fiala allegedly feared that strategic information about ammunition for Ukraine could leak to Russia through Fico, the media outlet reported.

Fiala said on March 12 that the initiative, joined by 18 countries, received "non-binding commitments" for a further 200,000 rounds, in addition to the confirmed purchase of 300,000 shells. Ukrainian soldiers may get the first round in "the foreseeable future," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.

Artillery shells are a crucial capability for Ukraine as the country faces critical ammunition shortages. Delays in U.S. military assistance have already had a direct impact on the battlefield, contributing to the loss of the key front-line city of Avdiivka.

‘Our reserves will run out:’ Ukrainian artillery sounds alarm on Western shell shortage
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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