European Union leaders have endorsed a plan for sending Ukraine one million rounds of artillery ammunition within the next 12 months to help the country counter Russia’s invasion forces.
EU foreign and defence ministers approved the plan for a fast-track purchasing procedure earlier this week, and the leaders of the bloc’s 27 member nations gave it their political blessing at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.
“Taking into account the security and defence interests of all member states, the European Council welcomes the agreement… to deliver ground-to-ground and artillery ammunition to Ukraine and, if requested, missiles,” the meeting’s conclusions on Ukraine read.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked leaders for the initiative earlier during a video call.
According to a diplomat with direct knowledge of the conversation, Mr Zelensky spoke from a moving train as he visited besieged Ukrainian cities.
The diplomat said Mr Zelensky also asked leaders to deliver modern aircraft and long-range missiles to help Ukraine’s resistance.
With Ukraine facing ammunition shortages after more than a year of fighting, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas brought to the table last month the idea of the EU setting up a joint purchasing plan similar to the one devised during the coronavirus pandemic to buy vaccines.
“What is critical is sending ammunition to Ukraine fast, because that might bring a change in this war,” Ms Kallas said as she arrived at the summit.
Under the plan, the European Defence Agency will – in parallel with deliveries – aggregate requests from member states to restock, and lead a fast-track procedure for direct negotiations with industrial providers of ammunition in Europe.
According to various estimates, Ukraine is firing 6,000-7,000 artillery shells a day, around a third of Russia’s total.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said this week he secured approval for earmarking one billion euros to encourage member nations to provide artillery shells from their existing stocks and any pending orders.
Another one billion euros would go towards accelerating new orders and encouraging countries to work together on making purchases through the European Defence Agency or in groups of at least three nations.
Hungary has said it will not take part in getting ammunition to Ukraine, citing its commitment to peace, but said it would not prevent other members from doing so by blocking the deal.
Last month, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the EU was partly to blame for prolonging Russia’s war in Ukraine by sanctioning Russia and supplying Ukraine with money and weapons, rather than seeking to negotiate peace with Moscow.
Bulgaria’s president, Rumen Radev, also ruled out the delivery of shells as long as a caretaker government remains in charge in the country.
“This is our sovereign decision,” he said. “Bulgaria will support European diplomatic efforts to restore peace.”