Skip to content
Edit post

Ukraine war latest: Belgium signs security deal with Ukraine, pledges $1 billion in aid this year

by The Kyiv Independent news desk May 28, 2024 9:16 PM 8 min read
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo after signing a bilateral security agreement on May 28, 2024. (Prime Minister Alexander De Croo/X)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Support independent journalism in Ukraine. Join us in this fight.

Become a member Support us just once

Key updates on May 28:

  • Belgium signs security deal with Ukraine, pledges $1 billion in aid this year
  • Zelensky arrives in Portugal, signs bilateral security deal
  • Sending troops to Ukraine 'shouldn't be ruled out,' Polish FM says
  • WSJ: Russia aims to produce 6,000 Shahed-type drones a year in Tatarstan
  • Czechia backs Ukraine striking Russian soil with Western-provided weapons

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement in Brussels on May 28, the Presidential Office announced.

Belgium becomes the 11th country to sign such a deal, along with Spain, the U.K., Germany, France, Denmark, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Finland, and Latvia.

Zelensky arrived in Belgium one day after his trip to Spain, where he signed the security agreement with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Under the agreement, Belgium will allocate at least 977 million euros (around $1 billion) in military aid for Ukraine in 2024.

The document also says that Belgium will supply Kyiv with 30 F-16 fighter jets by 2028, with the first planes expected to arrive already this year.

The country announced in 2023 it would supply Kyiv with its F-16 jets but the exact number was unclear until today. Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway also pledged to donate their F-16s to bolster Ukraine's Air Force.

Apart from the fighter jets, the agreement focuses on Ukraine's other key needs, including air defenses, artillery, and armored vehicles, De Croo said during a press conference after the signing ceremony.

The two parties agreed to cooperate in the defense industry, intelligence, cyber security, and countering disinformation.

The Western European country further pledged support for Ukraine's peace formula, EU and NATO aspirations, sanctions against Russia, compensation for war damages, bringing the aggressor to justice, and using seized Russian assets for Ukraine's needs.

"Today Belgium signs an agreement on security cooperation and long-term support with Ukraine," De Croo said on X.

"President... (Volodymyr Zelensky,) you need the right tools to protect your citizens. We are very determined when it comes to our support."

"I thank Prime Minister De Croo, his government, and all Belgians for their unwavering and long-lasting support for Ukraine," Zelensky said.

Ukraine, Spain sign bilateral security agreement
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez signed a bilateral security agreement between the two countries on May 27.

Zelensky arrives in Portugal, signs bilateral security deal

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and Portuguese Prime Minister Luis Montenegro said at a news conference on May 28 that they had signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement.

Portugal becomes the 12th country to sign such a deal, along with Belgium, Spain, the U.K., Germany, France, Denmark, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Finland, and Latvia.

Under the agreement, Portugal will allocate at least 126 million euros ($137 million) in military aid for Ukraine in 2024.

The document also says that Lisbon confirms its participation in the F-16 and naval capabilities coalitions, as well as programs for artillery ammunition procurement, mine clearance, and maritime security.

The two parties agreed to cooperate in the defense industry, intelligence, cyber security, and countering disinformation.

This is Zelensky's first visit to Portugal since he took office in 2019. Zelensky is also expected to meet Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Souza and Ukrainian refugees.

The trip had originally been scheduled for mid-May but, according to CNN Portugal, the change in plans was forced by the "serious internal situation in Ukraine at the moment."

Belgium to provide Ukraine with 30 F-16 aircraft by 2028, first to arrive in 2024
The announcement accompanies news that President Volodymyr Zelensky will visit Belgium on May 28 to sign a bilateral security agreement.

Sending troops to Ukraine 'shouldn't be ruled out,' Polish FM says

Poland should not rule out sending its troops to Ukraine, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said in an interview with the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza published on May 28.

The notion of Western troops being sent to Ukraine has been hotly debated since French President Emmanuel Macron said that Western military presence in Ukraine cannot be "ruled out" in the future.

The U.S. and multiple European allies, as well as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, have distanced themselves from Macron's statement.

"We should not rule out any option. Let (Russian President Vladimir) Putin guess what we will do," Sikorski said in answer to Gazeta Wyborcza's question about the possibility of sending Polish troops to Ukraine.

Finnish President Alexander Stubb, in turn, said that Finland is not considering sending its troops to Ukraine, the Finnish outlet Yle reported on May 27.

Stubb's announcement came after a Der Spiegel article from May 26 said that Baltic states and Poland consider sending their troops to Ukraine if Russia achieves a breakthrough.

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo also reiterated the president's stance. Orpo told Yle that he does not consider such a scenario possible for Finland, even if Russia moves deeper into Ukraine.

The prime minister added that Finland agreed to support Ukraine on the conditions established by Ukrainian authorities. Those include weapons supply and military training as of now, according to Orpo.

Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said earlier that the idea of sending Western troops to Ukraine has not advanced either in Estonia or at the EU level since "there is no clear understanding among the allies what it would bring."

Some NATO member states were also discussing the possibility of sending military instructors or contractors to Ukraine to train Ukrainian troops and assist with equipment repairs, the New York Times reported in mid-May.

Estonian PM: NATO training soldiers in Ukraine won’t escalate war
The NATO allies’ fears that sending troops to Ukraine to train the country’s soldiers could draw them into war with Russia “are not well-founded,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in an interview with the Financial Times published on May 20.

WSJ: Russia aims to produce 6,000 Shahed-type drones a year in Tatarstan

Russia plans to produce 6,000 Shahed-type drones per year at the Alabuga Special Economic Zone in Tatarstan, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on May 28, referring to a contract leaked by the Prana Network hacker group.

The Russian military has been using cheap but effective drones to attack Ukraine since the fall of 2022. Western media, such as the New York Times, has reported the cost of each Shahed-136 drone to be as low as $20,000.

Russia is reportedly ramping up domestic production of its own version of Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones, relying on Chinese components and Iranian technologies.

Moscow signed a deal with Tehran to build the domestic drone plant in late 2022 in Tatarstan, obliging to partly pay $1.7 billion in gold bars, the WSJ said.

The terms of the deal were revealed in February by the Prana Network, which claimed to break into email servers associated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Russia aims to reach the production level of 6,000 Shahed attack drones a year at the Alabuga facility, while the factory was already ahead of its production schedule in April, the WSJ said. It has produced 4,500 Shaheds, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Russian personnel are currently learning to operate the drones in Syria with instructors from both the Revolutionary Guard and Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah, according to Ukraine's military intelligence and a former Syrian officer with conflict-monitor group Etana.

The factory in the Alabuga Special Economic Zone also produces reconnaissance drones, such as the M3 Albatross, which have collected detailed photographic intelligence on Ukrainian positions and movements on the front line.

The domestic-produced drones also helped to repel Ukrainian attempts of incursion into Belgorod Oblast on the countries' shared border, the manufacturer claimed.

Russia yet needs skilled workers to assemble drones to ramp up its production further, the WSJ said. Moscow started to recruit specialists from Africa , mainly young female students, according to the outlet.

Russian businesses offered African students a skilled job paying three times the wage at home, with airfare, free accommodation, and a university diploma to join the work-study program.

Over a thousand women have gone to the Alabuga free zone from all over Africa, while an additional thousand students will likely join in 2024, the WSJ said, citing Ugandan officials.

The Ukrainian military regularly attacks Russian facilities in the Tatarstan Republic.

In April, Ukrainian forces struck production facilities in Yelabuga, where the Alabuga Special Economic Zone is based, and Nizhnekamsk. The targets were an oil refinery and a manufacturing facility for the Shahed-type attack drones.

Soon after, on April 17, a factory in Tatarstan producing bomber aircraft for the Russian military was also attacked by Ukrainian drones, Ukraine's military intelligence (HUR) source told the Kyiv Independent.

Another Ukrainian attack against Russia's Tatarstan Republic was carried out on May 23.

Explainer: Iran’s cheap, effective Shahed drones and how Russia uses them in Ukraine
Editor’s note: This story initially said that Shahed-136 drones are said to weigh 10-15 kilograms. It was corrected since that is the weight of the warhead, and the drones weigh about 200 kilograms. Iran’s massive aerial assault on Israel over the weekend felt close to home for Ukraine. In a

Czechia backs Ukraine striking Russian soil with Western-provided weapons

The Czech government supported allowing Ukraine to hit targets inside Russia using Western arms, the Czech Press Agency (CTK) reported on May 28, citing Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala.

U.S. officials, as well as German ones, have repeatedly said that they do not support or encourage Kyiv's strikes with the Western-supplied arms inside Russia.

The tide nonetheless appears to be shifting amid arguments that Washington's ban meant Ukraine was unable to attack Russian forces as they were building up before crossing the border into Kharkiv Oblast in early May.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was one of the latest high-profile Western leaders to call for an end to the ban.

Fiala backed Stoltenberg's call, describing the Ukrainian position as "simply logical."

"As a country under attack, Ukraine certainly has every right to use all means of defense," Fiala said.

President Volodymyr Zelensky urged on May 26 Ukraine's partners to allow Kyiv to use Western weapons to strike military targets in Russia.

"We see every point of concentration of Russian troops. We know all the areas where Russian missiles and combat aircraft are launched," Zelensky said in his evening address.

Some countries, such as the U.K., Lithuania, Sweden, and Finland, have said they do not oppose Ukraine using their arms to strike inside Russian territory.

Ukraine can use Belgian F-16s only on Ukrainian territory, Belgian PM says
“Everything which is covered by this agreement... is for the utilization by the Ukrainian defense forces on Ukrainian territory,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo responded to a journalist’s question about whether Ukraine will be able to use Belgian F-16 jets to down Russian jets in Russian airspace…
Before you skip this banner, we want to tell you something…

The Kyiv Independent doesn’t depend on a wealthy owner or an oligarch — in 2023, 80% of our revenue was from reader contributions . It’s thanks to them that we don’t have to rely on a single owner.

Support us now and help maintain our independent model and keep our articles free for everyone. Your contributions allow us to cover journalists’ salaries, report from the front lines, and fund projects like our War Crimes Investigations Unit.

visa masterCard americanExpress

Editors' Picks

Enter your email to subscribe
Please, enter correct email address
Subscribe
* indicates required
* indicates required
Subscribe
* indicates required
* indicates required
Subscribe
* indicates required

Subscribe

* indicates required
Subscribe
* indicates required

Subscribe

* indicates required
Subscribe
* indicates required

Subscribe

* indicates required
Successfuly subscribed
Thank you for signing up for this newsletter. We’ve sent you a confirmation email.