Prime minister: Ukraine EU artillery shell procurement shows Estonia heeded

European Council meeting on Ukraine, Thursday, March 23, 2023.
European Council meeting on Ukraine, Thursday, March 23, 2023. Source: Government Office

The speed with which a procurement of up to a million artillery shells to be sent to Ukraine was put in place at European Union level is both demonstration of the union's commitment to Ukraine and that Estonia's proposals are taken seriously, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.

"The fact that it only took a little more than a month from drawing board to implementation demonstrates the EU's long-term commitment, desire and capability of acting quickly and flexibly on behalf of Ukraine. Plus this is also confirmation that Estonia's voice is heard, and that our proposals have weight," the prime minister said following a European Council heads of state and government meeting in Brussels Thursday.

"For this reason, I suggested at the last council meeting that we in the EU could jointly procure more ammunition for Ukraine," Kallas went on, according to a government press release.

Kallas, a former MEP, was representing Estonia as head of government.

The meeting discussed assistance to Ukraine and ways to further support it, including via the prosecution of, and placing sanctions on, Russian leaders.

"This is the fastest and most effective way to help Ukrainians practically, immediately and right now, on the battlefield," Kallas said.

"I am delighted that, today, that we gave the final nod to a decision from EU foreign affairs and defense ministers, one which enables the implementation of this plan. The EU will be sending a million 155mm artillery shells to Ukraine, over the next 12 months, as a result," she added.

Thursday's European Council discussion on Ukraine kicked off with an exchange of ideas with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, where Prime Minister Kallas called on Secretary General  Guterres for the creation of a UN-level war crimes tribunal, in relation to Russia's war on Ukraine.

Russia is a permanent UN Security Council member.

The meeting also saw heads of state and government get an overview of progress on Ukraine's EU accession process, with a joint statement acknowledging the reforms and achievements already made.

Ukraine has repeatedly asked us for military assistance at a faster pace, Kallas noted, most recently in February, when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy himself met with EU heads of state and government in Brussels.

Estonia is also sending a strong signal to the European defense industry, and, as noted, setting up a further war crimes tribunal since, Kallas said,  the International Criminal Court (ICC) does not have the competence to investigate  crimes of aggression even as it has put an arrest warrant out on Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

This does not mean the ICC is toothless, she added, with the arrest warrant sending a clear signal and representing confirmation that judgment on criminals always ensues, while noone is immune from prosecution, " not even the head of state of a permanent member of the UN Security Council," the prime minister said.

The meeting also talked about sanctions and the need to persuade the G7 nations to reduce the price cap on Russian crude oil.

The need to crack down on sanctions evasion and ways to do this, as well as possible ways of utilizing frozen Russian assets, were also on the table.

The European Council meeting of heads of state and heads of government continues Friday in Brussels.

The European Council's conclusions on Ukraine arising from this week's meeting are available in English here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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