Sameer Al-Doumy Agence France-Presse Ukrainian soldiers fire shells from a French Caesar cannon, December 22, 2022, in eastern Ukraine. France offered on Thursday to buy twelve additional Caesars – which would bring the number of these machines for Ukraine to 67 – and announced that it had the capacity to produce 60 more if other allies wanted to finance them.
Marina De Russé – Agence France-Presse in Paris
Ukraine's allies launched an “artillery” coalition in Paris on Thursday to meet Kiev's dire weapons needs, which warned of an “ammunition shortage” as the second anniversary approaches from the start of the conflict with Russia.
“The shortage of ammunition is a very real and pressing problem that our armed forces are currently facing,” lamented Ukrainian Defense Minister Roustem Umerov on X (ex-Twitter), on the occasion of the launch of a “coalition artillery” piloted by France and the United States. “We must strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities to protect the free world from Russian danger,” he said.
The artillery “coalition” launched Thursday is one of the components of the contact group for the defense of Ukraine known as the Ramstein group, bringing together more than 50 countries in several subgroups, from mine clearance to air defense.
“There is no alternative to modern artillery, we must continue our efforts and increase our production of ammunition,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Roustem Oumerov declared by videoconference during the opening ceremony, after having canceled his visit “for security reasons”.
France proposed on this occasion to “release a sum of 50 million euros” (CA$73 million) to “purchase twelve additional Caesars” – which would bring the number of these machines for Ukraine to 67 – and announced that it had the capacity to produce 60 more: it was up to the allies to finance them.
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“I called @EmmanuelMacron to thank France for launching the “artillery” coalition for Ukraine and for committing to producing dozens of “Caesars”,” said the President Volodymyr Zelensky on the social network X.
The two leaders also discussed “the need to further strengthen Ukraine's air defense,” targeted almost every night by drones and missiles launched by Moscow, Mr. Zelensky added.
Kiev has already deployed 49 Caesars, produced by Nexter (Franco-German group KNDS), and six others will be delivered “in the coming weeks”, according to the French Ministry of the Armed Forces.
France has the capacity to produce 72 more and is ready to finance 12, according to French Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu.
There would remain 60 to be financed, or some 250 million euros (CA$367 million), “a sum which seems to me to be accessible for the various budgets of the allies”, a he continued before representatives of 23 countries supporting Ukraine's defense.
To arm the guns, the EU has set itself the goal of supplying Ukraine with one million munitions by spring 2024. But only 300,000 shells have been delivered to date, according to European parliamentarians.
The Ukrainians fire between 5,000 and 8,000 shells daily, compared to between 10 and 15,000 on the Russian side, Cédric Perrin, president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French Senate, underlined on Wednesday, estimating that “national production and European is extremely weak, the established economy does not live up to Ukrainian expectations.
On the French side, Mr. Lecornu insisted Thursday on the tripling of French munitions deliveries to Ukraine, from 1,000 units per month to 2,000 during the first year of the war, and which should increase to 3,000 shells from January. 60~/p>
“We are in the process of getting our hands on stocks of powder. We recycle powders from munitions that have not been used,” he told reporters.
The minister also announced the delivery of around fifty A2SM air-ground guidance kits per month from January, throughout the year. Medium-range, they will be able to adapt to “Soviet-class” aircraft like Migs and Sukhoi, which Ukraine uses, he assured.
France has already ceded or sold 30 Caesars to Ukraine, which had ordered six additional ones in the fall.
Denmark also supplied 19 examples of an eight-wheeled armored version. Truck-mounted, the Caesar can fire 155mm rounds up to 40 kilometers away.
Emmanuel Macron announced that he would visit Ukraine in February, for the second time since the start of the war in February 2022.
France is “in the process of finalizing a security agreement” with Kiev of the type concluded on Friday between the United Kingdom and Ukraine over ten years, he added, announcing in in addition to new deliveries of around “forty” Scalp missiles.