AP

EU mulls ways to ramp up ammunition production for Ukraine

Feb 20, 2023, 3:21 AM | Updated: Feb 21, 2023, 2:56 am

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, center, speaks with Poland's Foreign Minister Zb...

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, center, speaks with Poland's Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, right, and Portugal's Foreign Minister Joao Gomes Cravinho, left, during a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023. European Union foreign ministers meet Monday to discuss Ukraine, Afghanistan and the situation in Iran. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

(AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union must find ways to quickly provide thousands of artillery shells to Ukraine or face the prospect of it losing the war against Russia, top EU diplomats warned Monday, as ammunition stocks in national EU armories dwindle.

“The most important, pressing issue today for the Ukrainian army is to have a continuous flow of ammunition,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said before chairing a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers. “If we fail on that, really, the result of the war is in danger.”

Borrell said that Russian forces are firing about 50,000 rounds of artillery each day and that Ukraine’s supplies must be lifted to the same level. Other estimates suggest that Ukraine is firing up to 6,000-7,000 artillery shells daily, around a third of Russia’s total one year into the war.

Most sought after, Borrell underlined, are 155mm artillery rounds.

Debate among the ministers focused on ways to make joint purchases of ammunition and use a special EU fund to provide extra financing. However, the defense industry requires solid, long-term orders to stand up and expand its production lines and cannot simply ramp up supplies overnight.

“We have to launch procedures to increase the capacity of the European industry to produce more and quicker,” Borrell said, adding that “the best way to provide ammunition to Ukraine is to share the already existing stockpiles of the European armies.”

“Priority has to be given to the supplies for the Ukrainian army, as much as we can,” he told reporters after the meeting had ended without any formal conclusions being drawn.

Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the waiting time for the supply of “large-caliber ammunition has increased from 12 to 28 months,” and that “orders placed today would only be delivered two-and-a-half years later.”

Estonia, which shares a border and long history with Russia, is driving the EU and its NATO allies to provide 1 million artillery shells, at an estimated cost of 4 billion euros ($4.3 billion).

“Russia uses daily (what) the European Union produces per month, and in the current military industry capabilities, we can reach the need of Ukraine (in) around six years, so this is fully unacceptable,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told reporters.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appealed to his Western allies to quicken their military support, warning that delays would play into Russia’s hand as the invasion approaches its anniversary on Feb. 24.

NATO believes that Russia has launched a long-anticipated offensive in recent weeks, raising the intensity of attacks in eastern Ukraine while building up forces in the south. Officials have said that Ukraine is likely to launch its own counteroffensive in the spring.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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EU mulls ways to ramp up ammunition production for Ukraine