BRUSSELS, Feb 20 (Reuters) – The European Union needs to ensure that Ukraine has enough ammunition to continue its fight against the Russian invasion, the EU’s top diplomat said on Monday.
“It is the most urgent issue. If we fail on that, the result of the war is in danger,” Josep Borrell said before a meeting with foreign affairs ministers from the EU countries in Brussels.
“The Russian artillery shoots about 50,000 shots a day, and Ukraine needs to be at the same level of capacity. They have cannons but they lack ammunition.”
Borrell backed a call from Estonia for the bloc’s members to buy arms jointly to help Ukraine – an approach officials say would be more efficient than EU members placing individual orders.
EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the plan in Brussels on Monday.
The plan would work by placing large ammunition orders on behalf of multiple member states to speed up procurement and encourage European arms firms to invest in increasing their production capacities.
Borrell said he would table plans at the meeting to use the existing €3.6bn (£3.2bn) European peace facility for the EU to procure ammunition jointly on the model of the procurement of vaccines during the Covid crisis.
In a panel discussion with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas in Munich on Sunday, Borrell said: “I completely agree with the Estonian prime minister’s proposal, we are working on that and it will work.”
However he warned it would not solve Kyiv’s urgent need for more ammunition now.
Borrell said the Estonian idea would work in the medium term, but he believes the urgency of the shortages is such that it requires EU countries to draw on existing stocks. “We have to use what member states have,” he said.
In Other Developments
* U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Poland over Feb. 20-22 to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he would discuss with Biden possibly increasing U.S. troop presence in Poland and making it more permanent.
* Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will travel to Kyiv on Monday to meet Zelenskiy, a political source in Rome said on Sunday. Meloni, who took office in October, has said she planned to visit Kyiv before the anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
* Zelenskiy said in an interview published by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Sunday that the French President Emmanuel Macron was wasting his time considering any sort of dialogue with Russia. The two presidents spoke by telephone on Sunday.
* Ukrainian officials have urged U.S. Congress members to press Biden’s administration to send F-16 jet fighters to Kyiv, lawmakers said.
* The Biden administration is planning to impose new export controls and a fresh round of sanctions, targeting Russia’s defense and energy sectors, financial institutions and several individuals, Bloomberg News reported.
* The United States has concluded that Russia has committed “crimes against humanity” during its nearly year-long invasion of Ukraine, Vice President Kamala Harris said. Moscow responded that Washington was trying to foment crisis with the allegation.
* Russia has charged 680 Ukrainian officials, including 118 members of the armed forces and defence ministry with breaking laws governing the conduct of war, including the use of weapons against civilians, TASS news agency reported on Monday.
* U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China’s top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi at a Munich conference of consequences should China provide material support to Russia’s invasion, while Harris said Chinese support would reward aggression.
* Wang said China has “neither stood by idly nor thrown fuel on the fire” regarding the crisis in Ukraine, and continues to call for peace and dialogue.
* European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Sunday backed a call for the bloc’s members to buy arms jointly to help Ukraine but warned it would not solve Kyiv’s urgent need for more ammunition now.
* Ukrainian troops conducting weekend exercises near the small town of Siversk said they were preparing to defend one of the possible targets of a new Russian offensive. The town, which had a pre-war population of 10,000, is 35 km (21 miles) north of Bakhmut – scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks.
Photo courtesy Ukraine armed forces