EU agrees extra 500m euros to arm Ukraine

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2023

BRUSSELS: EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to spend an extra 500 million euros ($540 million) from their common coffers on arms for Ukraine, diplomats said, as Kyiv pleads for heavier weapons.

The accord will take the total committed to supplying Ukraine´s military from common EU spending to 3.6 billion euros, which is separate from national spending by individual member states.

Overall, European nations have pledged more than 11 billion euros on weapons for Ukraine, EU officials say, less than half of what the United States is spending. The latest tranche of funds comes as Germany faces intense pressure over its hesitation on giving battle tanks to Ukraine.

“We need bold, decisive, and audacious steps to secure Ukraine´s victory in 2023,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted after briefing his counterparts form the EU. Ministers from the EU´s Baltic nations led calls for Berlin to greenlight sending Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv at the meeting in Brussels.

Berlin has signalled it could be ready to grant permission for other countries such as Poland to hand over the German-made tanks. “I wish I would not have to wait one more day for tanks to be delivered,” Lithuania´s Gabrielius Landsbergis said.

The EU funds are used to reimburse member states for weapons they have delivered to Ukraine. Foreign ministers also agreed to spend 45 million euros on a training mission set up last year to train an initial 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers.Ukraine has called the tanks key to its effort in the war, which has seen heavy fighting in the nation´s east.

A Russian proxy official in east Ukraine claimed to have visited Soledar, the flattened town in the Donetsk region of Ukraine that Moscow said it captured this month. Denis Pushilin, Moscow´s top official responsible for Donetsk, said late Sunday he had visited the destroyed salt mining town with Zurab Makiev, a member of Russia´s parliament.

Pushilin posted a video on social media showing the men armed and wearing military attire arriving by car in Soledar. AFP could not independently verify the images. They were the first Moscow-linked officials to claim to visit the town, whose capture Russia has portrayed as a major victory.

Pushilin told Russian state television Monday after the visit that Soledar had been “destroyed” and that there were “almost no whole buildings left”. The defence ministry has said the town´s capture is an important step to pushing out Ukrainian troops from Bakhmut, a larger mining town nearby.