Seven nations procure ammunition to support Ukraine via EU program
By Andrew Gray
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Seven EU countries have ordered ammunition under a landmark European Union procurement scheme to get urgently needed artillery shells to Ukraine and replenish depleted Western stocks, according to the EU agency in charge.
The orders - placed under contracts negotiated by the European Defence Agency (EDA) - are for 155mm artillery rounds, one of the most important munitions in the war of attrition between Ukraine's troops and Russian invaders.
The scheme was set up as part of a plan worth at least 2 billion euros, launched in March with the aim of getting a million shells and missiles to Ukraine within a year.
Some officials and diplomats have expressed scepticism that the target will be met but the initiative marked a significant step in the EU's growing role in defence and military affairs, spurred by the war in Ukraine.
Until now, defence procurement has largely been the preserve of the bloc's 27 individual member governments.
"Seven Member States have already placed orders for 155mm ammunition through the EDA’s fast-track procedure," the agency said in response to questions from Reuters.
"More orders, for instance for national replenishment purposes, could materialise in the coming weeks and months."
The EDA declined to name the countries or state the size of the orders, saying much of the information was confidential.
In response to queries from Reuters, Lithuania and Luxembourg said they were among the seven.
Luxembourg's defence ministry said it had earmarked 2 million euros ($2.1 million).
SCRAMBLE FOR AMMO
Kyiv's Western allies have been scrambling to procure artillery ammunition for Ukraine and boost production capacity as the combatants have been firing thousands of rounds every day.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Kyiv on Thursday that the alliance now had overarching framework contracts for 2.4 billion euros' ($2.5 billion) worth of key ammunition, including 1 billion euros of firm orders.
"It was ... not sufficient only to deplete our own stocks," he said.
The EDA said the EU deals were for both complete shells and for components such as fuses, projectiles, charges and primers.
It said the scheme covered four "modern firing platforms designed and produced in Europe ... and most commonly used by the Ukrainian armed forces", naming them as France’s CAESAR, Poland’s Krab, Germany’s PzH2000 and Slovakia’s Zuzana C/2000.
By placing orders before the end of this month, the countries are eligible for reimbursement from an EU-run fund, the European Peace Facility, for ammunition procured for Ukraine - although Luxembourg said it would not request this. ($1 = 0.9452 euros)
(Reporting by Andrew Gray)