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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

EU looks at weapons purchases outside bloc to help Ukraine

By Ania Nussbaum, Peter Laca and Samy Adghirni Bloomberg

European leaders meeting in Paris will discuss a proposal to buy ammunition from countries outside the region, giving momentum to an idea that would help get much-needed military equipment to Ukraine.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala will detail a plan on Monday to purchase 800,000 rounds from several countries, according to people familiar with preparations for the gathering. France and other nations have resisted using European Union funds to buy ammo outside the bloc, with Paris urging that money to be spent on developing the EU’s own industries.

French President Emmanuel Macron called the extraordinary summit in a show of support for Ukraine and in an effort to combat the narrative that Russia would eventually win the war, said one of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The meeting is also meant to underscore the unity and determination of Ukraine’s allies.

“The security of all of us is at stake,” Macron said as he opened the conference, adding that Russia must not succeed. “Ukraine is determined today, it needs us beyond what we’ve already done.”

France is reviewing the proposal after Europe’s inability to provide Ukraine with sufficient military equipment has opened a rift between eastern and western nations. The mood in diplomatic circles in the east is that should Russia ultimately win, Western Europe won’t be forgiven and the whole European integration project could be jeopardized.

Russia is already making advances on the battlefield as Ukraine faces shortages of ammunition and troops after months of stalemate. Russian soldiers are probing Ukrainian defenses along the front line, and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said he expects Moscow to prepare counteroffensives as soon as the end of May.

Before boarding a plane to the French capital on Monday, Fiala told reporters the talks will follow up on the initiative Prague presented at an EU summit in early February.

“The goal is to gather enough money for ammunition that Ukraine needs,” he added, without providing details.

Zelenskiy told a news conference in Kyiv earlier on Monday that the EU had so far only delivered 30% of the 1 million artillery shells it had promised by March. The EU already acknowledged at the end of January that it would have to delay the target by several months, just before the bloc overcame opposition from Hungary to agree a new €50 billion ($54 billion) support package.

At the same time, more than $60 billion in additional US aid to Ukraine, the country’s main lifeline as it tries to repel Russian forces, remains stalled in Congress, where Republicans are using the issue as leverage to extract concessions on border security and immigration policy.

Czech President Petr Pavel said at the Munich Security Conference this month that his country had identified 500,000 rounds of 155mm shells and another 300,000 rounds of 122mm caliber that could be delivered within weeks if the money was made available. He didn’t name suppliers. The Czech Republic is now working to team up with others to source the ammunition.

The Defense Ministry in Prague said on Friday it’s coordinating the efforts and secured preliminary commitments from Canada and Denmark, as well as other countries that didn’t wish to be identified. An official in Macron’s office called the Czech plan important but cautioned that there would probably not be any new announcements on equipment on Monday.

Group of Seven leaders including President Joe Biden sought to reassure Zelenskiy of their commitment in a call on Saturday, which marked two years since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of his neighbor.

Attendees gathering in Paris include Fiala, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The US, UK and Canada are also sending officials.