EU approves Estonia's initiative to jointly send 1 mln artillery shells to Ukraine

British soldiers prepare shells of AS-90 self-propelled artillery weapon during the Winter Camp 23 military drills near Tapa, Estonia, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023.
British soldiers prepare shells of AS-90 self-propelled artillery weapon during the Winter Camp 23 military drills near Tapa, Estonia, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. Photo: Sergei Grits / AP / Scanpix

The EU Foreign Affairs Council as well as a joint meeting of EU defense and foreign affairs ministers gave their political approval on Monday to Estonia's initiative to jointly send one million 155-millimeter artillery shells to Ukraine within 12 months.

Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu welcomed the EU's agreement in principle to give Ukraine one million artillery shells as part of a joint procurement within 12 months.

"Ukraine urgently needs additional ammunition to defend itself and the security of Europe," he said, adding that the EU's political decision is an important step in protecting the security of Ukraine and of all Europe.

The agreement will now be forwarded to the European Council for approval on March 23-24.

Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur said that the aim of the initiative from Estonia is to provide Ukraine with urgently needed military aid as fast as possible and increase the European defense industry's manufacturing capabilities.

"Above all, Ukraine needs ammunition right now and today we put the clear objective in writing -- to send at least one million 155 mm caliber rounds of ammunition to Ukraine within the next 12 months,” Pevkur explained.

In addition to the political agreement, it now must be ensured that the mechanism chosen for carrying out the joint procurement is capable of meeting the objectives.

"Today’s agreement is only the beginning. To see it through, we need consistency and persistence, closer coordination and, of course, additional funding. For that, we fully support the proposal for an additional 3.5 billion euros to the European Peace Facility from member states," Pevkur added.

The agreement will be financed through the European Peace Facility. Its initial capacity was eight billion euros, however, in December 2022 the EU member states decided on an additional two billion euros to be allocated to the fund. In addition, member states agreed in December that the facility's budget will be increased by a maximum of 5.5, billion until the year 2027.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting also addressed holding Russia accountable for its crimes in Ukraine.

"It is the moral obligation of the international community to hold Russian leaders accountable," Reinsalu said, and welcomed the International Criminal Court's decision from last week to issue arrest warrants against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova.

The Estonian foreign minister added that in addition, the EU needs to rapidly develop a joint position in order to make progress on a UN mandate in the creation of an international tribunal and prevent Russia going unpunished. Reinsalu also highlighted the importance of proceeding with an 11th package of sanctions against Russia, and underscored that in addition to imposing new sanctions, it is equally as important to ensure that Russia cannot circumvent existing ones.

"On top of additional sanctions, we also rapidly need to lower the price cap on oil because Russia is using the profit to finance its war in Ukraine," he said.

"We need to jointly establish in the EU sanctions against the people who were involved in the unlawful arrest of journalist and opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza," Reinsalu said. He added that the EU additionally also needs to create a separate sanction mechanism against the Russian oligarchs who act as proxy agents of Russia in Moldova.

The ministers also discussed the EU's strategic compass, situation in Tunisia, human rights violations in Iran and Iran's support to Russia's aggression against Ukraine.

Ahead of the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting, Reinsalu spoke at the European Humanitarian Forum, saying that Russia's aggression has caused a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and aggravated humanitarian aid needs globally.

"Estonia continues to make every effort to help ensure the necessary humanitarian aid and to stand up for compliance with the international humanitarian law," he said.