EU considers proposal by Czech prime minister to purchase weapons to assist Ukraine

A number of heads of state and government expressed backing for the initiative during the talks

European leaders meeting in Paris discussed 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, who was due to detail the plan to purchase 800,000 rounds from several countries, said a number of heads of state and government expressed backing for the initiative during the talks on Monday.

“I think that this action will have strong support, I expect that it could be 15 countries,” he told reporters as he left the summit, declining to name them.

“We estimate that there should be sufficient ammunition production in Europe and Ukraine in 2025, but we need to bridge the period until then,” Fiala said. “The Czech initiative is a way the European states can do that.”


French President Emmanuel Macron called the extraordinary summit in a show of support for Ukraine and to underscore Western determination to help it win. But 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.

Speaking in advance of the conference at the Élysée Palace, Mr Varadkar said that a very clear message must be sent to the Kremlin that “Russia cannot win this war”, and that “no matter what else might change in other parts of the world, Europe and its allies would stand by Ukraine” and would continue to do so “for as long as it takes”.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after the meeting that his country had agreed to contribute €100 million ($109 million) to the Czech plan and said he hoped other capitals would follow.

The talks came as 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 jeopardised.

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 defences along the front line, and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said he expects Moscow to prepare counteroffensives as soon as the end of May.

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 calibre 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 Defence Ministry in Prague said on Friday it’s co-ordinating 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 neighbour.

Attendees gathering in Paris also included German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. The US, UK and Canada are also sending officials. – Bloomberg