EU leaders pledge increased support for Ukraine at Prague meeting

Petr Fiala and Denys Shmyhal

The Czech prime minister on Tuesday hosted a work dinner for a group of EU leaders and the prime minister of Ukraine aimed at coordinating and strengthening aid to the embattled country in the face of continuing Russian aggression. The meeting, attended by some of Ukraine’s most prominent allies, focused on the Czech shells-for-Ukraine initiative, Ukraine's air defence and European cooperation in the defence industry.

“The situation on the battlefront is reaching a critical point. We must step up our efforts and find new ways to support Ukraine’s defense” — that was the main message from the Prague talks on Tuesday night.

The meeting was attended by the prime misters of the Netherlands, Denmark, Latvia, and Ukraine as well as Polish President Andrej Duda and US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O'Brien.

Petr Fiala with Andrzej Duda | Photo: Michal Kamaryt,  ČTK

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala reported on the Czech shells-for-Ukraine initiative, saying that fifteen EU and NATO countries have now contributed more than EUR 1.6 billion for ammunition sourced from outside of the EU.

“As I promised tens of thousands of 155 mm caliber ammunition will arrive in Ukraine in the course of June. Ukraine can expect the first shipment within the next few days.”

At the meeting, Latvian Prime Minister Evika Siliņa pledged another ten million euros for the initiative.

Patriot air defense system | Photo: Darkone,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 2.5

The debate also focused on boosting Ukraine’s air defense and the German initiative to ramp up international support to purchase air defense systems for Ukraine, now backed by more than 12 NATO countries. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday that his country would deliver parts of a Patriot air defense system to Ukraine. Belgium, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands have promised to deliver aircraft and Kyiv expects the first delivery of F-16 fighter jets in June. Fiala said Czechia had already delivered the first simulator for F-16 aircraft to Ukraine.

According to Fiala, the Czech and German initiatives are proof of the unity of the EU against Russian aggression. "An EU that stands united behind Ukraine means a stronger and safer Europe and a stronger voice on the world stage," he said.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal thanked Prime Minister Fiala for calling the meeting, saying he was “among friends” and that his country is and will remain “the shield of Europe”. He stressed the importance of the EU and NATO aid, saying it was vital for the ammunition to reach the front line as soon as possible.

Fiala came up with the proposal to buy artillery ammunition for Ukraine from outside the EU at an EU summit in February. Czechia has been acting as an intermediary and is taking care of the logistics side of the operation. According to earlier statements, 500,000 pieces of artillery ammunition have already been obtained, another 200,000 pieces are under contract, and Czechia says it is in a position to secure another 300,000.

Author: Daniela Lazarová | Sources: Český rozhlas , Česká televize
run audio