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Saturday, February 17, 2024

Another NATO member runs out of weapons for Ukraine

Aid will continue but in other ways, the Czech defense minister has said

There isn’t much left in the Czech Republic’s stockpiles that can be sent to Kiev, Defense Minister Jana Cernochova told Vaclav Moravec in a TV interview on Sunday. Prague, however, intends to contract with private companies to continue weapons and ammunition deliveries, she added.

Earlier this month, the Czech Defense Ministry published a report listing all the equipment donated to Ukraine, which had an estimated value of 1.2 billion crowns ($54.1 million) after depreciation.

Read more: NATO state accuses EU of double standards

“There are not many items of military material that we could send to Ukraine,” Cernochova told the host of the show ‘Otazky Vaclava Moravce’ (Questions of Vaclav Moravec) on Czech state TV. “On the other hand, we will try to compensate for the impossibility of sending material from our stocks, because we do not want to jeopardize our defense capability, with export licenses that we grant to private companies.”

According to Cernochova, the Czech military industry has the capacity to supply Ukraine with ammunition and weapons, if contracted for them. She brought up the fact that Prague has sent Kiev close to 50 infantry fighting vehicles and tanks, 2,500 pistols, 7,000 rifles, 500 light machine guns and 500 sniper rifles, all paid for by Denmark.

Czech instructors have also trained up to 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers as part of the EU Military Assistance Mission (EUMAM) and deployed mobile training teams in Poland, Cernochova said.

Read more: ‘Prepare for a long war’ – NATO chief

Prague’s determination comes after the new government in neighboring Slovakia blocked its predecessor’s plans to donate €40.3 million ($43 million) of weapons and ammunition to Kiev.

Over the past 18 months, the US and its European allies in NATO have raided their closets to replenish Ukraine’s losses in the conflict against Russia. By October, however, they began to admit that the stockpiles were running out. First Britain, then France halted donations to Ukraine, admitting their cupboards were bare. Of the million 155mm shells the EU promised Kiev, it only delivered 300,000.

Russia’s military industry appeared to be outpacing the West, Cernochova’s predecessor Lubomir Metnar said in the same broadcast. The current defense minister agreed, but argued that Moscow also had help from abroad.

“Catching up and outpacing the other side in the arms race is not easy, and it may mean for Ukraine that some things do not go as planned,” Cernochova said.