| 2 April 2023, Sunday |

EU agrees to start joint arms procurement

In a bid to help Ukraine, European Union countries on Wednesday agreed to speed up supplies of artillery rounds and buy more shells, but still have to work out how to turn these aims into reality.

Under a plan drawn up by foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, EU states would get financial incentives worth €1 billion ($1.06 billion) to send more of their artillery rounds to Ukraine while another €1 billion would fund joint procurement of new shells.

“There has been a general agreement on this procedure but there are questions pending. Everything has to be discussed in detail,” Borrell said after a meeting of EU defense ministers in Stockholm also attended by their Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov.

Borrell said he hoped the plan would be finalized at a meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers on March 20.

However, Reznikov had urged the ministers in Stockholm to support an Estonian plan for EU countries to come together to buy one million 155mm shells this year at a cost of €4 billion to help Ukraine fight Russia’s invasion and launch a counter-offensive.

Borrell’s plan is smaller in scale but would still be a landmark step for the EU as defense procurement has largely been the preserve of the bloc’s individual member governments.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited top US lawmaker Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, to visit Ukraine as doubts over support for Kyiv’s war efforts simmer in Congress, particularly among conservatives.

Zelenskyy proposed the visit in an interview with CNN, which will be broadcast later Wednesday.

“Mr. McCarthy, he has to come here to see how we work, what’s happening here, what war caused us, which people are fighting now, who are fighting now. And then after that, make your assumptions,” Zelenskyy said.

“I think that Speaker McCarthy, he never visited Kyiv or Ukraine, and I think it would help him with his position,” the Ukrainian leader said.

But McCarthy told CNN that he does not need to visit Ukraine to understand the situation.

While McCarthy has not opposed the aid, he has said more than once that Congress should not be writing “blank checks” to support the war without close scrutiny.

A top US intelligence official has warned that Russia may be preparing for a prolonged war of attrition against Ukraine.

“We do not expect the Russian military to recover sufficiently this year to make major territorial gains,” US intelligence coordinator Avril Haines said at a Senate hearing in Washington on Wednesday.

Haines said Russian President Vladimir Putin most likely believes that time is on his side and — even if it takes years — prolonging the war might present the Kremlin’s best chance of securing Russia’s strategic interests in Ukraine.

The official said Putin now better understands the limits of Russian military capabilities and, for now, seems to be concentrating on more modest goals.

Poland is ready to hand over its Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine as part of an international coalition, President Andrzej Duda said.

“We are ready to deliver these aircraft and I am sure Ukraine would be ready to use them immediately,” Duda told US broadcaster CNN.

For the future, it would be important to train more Ukrainian pilots on US F-16 fighter jets, Duda said during his visit to Abu Dhabi.

The discussion about the Polish MiG-29s already arose last year shortly after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to Polish military experts, the country still has about 30 aircraft of this type in service on NATO’s eastern flank. Many of them come from old East German stocks.

Duda, however, did not give any details about the international coalition he was seeking. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had mentioned a NATO decision as a prerequisite at the Munich Security Conference in February.

A 13-year-old Russian girl is being denied contact with her father who was placed under house arrest for comments critical of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, according to OVD-Info, a human rights monitor.

The group said the girl, who drew a pro-Ukrainian sketch in school, was moved to a “juvenile rehabilitation center” after investigations had begun into her father’s comments.

“Maria Moskalyeva … is not allowed phone calls with her father,” OVD-Info reported after speaking to the family’s lawyer. An independent lawmaker was also not allowed access to the girl, the NGO said.

According to the rights group, authorities first targeted the family after Moskalyeva drew a picture critical of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine at school in April last year.

Her father Alexei Moskalyev, a single parent, was later fined 32,000 rubles ($420 or €400) for discrediting the army in a post on social media. This month he was accused of repeating the offence and was placed under house arrest, OVD-Info said.

  • DW