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Czechs want EU to shop abroad for Ukraine shells

Frustrated by this shortfall, Prague is pushing EU countries to finance the purchase of what it estimates are 450,000 rounds of artillery available outside the bloc, four diplomats and a person familiar with the talks told POLITICO.

When the EU was calibrating its military aid commitments in early 2023, France — the bloc’s defense industry leader — had been pushing to make sure that subsidies were focused only on local production, rather than being funnelled abroad.

But the Czech call raises the prospect that Europe would turn instead to arms companies in South Korea, Turkey and South Africa. The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell specifically mentioned that Korea — a major weapons producer — could be tapped for extra shells, according to the official.

The EU’s blueprint to boost ammunition supplies includes reimbursing countries with billions of euros through the European Peace Facility for sending shells from existing stockpiles. This would exist along with €1 billion to push joint procurement of ammunition by the European Defence Agency and €500 million to support ammunition production projects.

Now, with Kyiv reeling from the constant attrition of Russia’s assault along a 1,000 kilometer frontline, the country’s Defense Minister Rustem Umerov says there’s “shell hunger,” prompting friendly capitals to reconsider their military aid strategy.

One diplomat said the 450,000 figure was pitched during an informal meeting of EU defense ministers in Brussels on Wednesday. Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala then told his counterparts during Thursday’s EU leaders’ summit that shells could be obtained from outside the EU to help the bloc meet its promise, according to another official briefed on the talks.