The EU on Monday, Oct. 17, stepped up its military support for Kyiv by launching a mission to train 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers and providing 500 million euros more for weapons.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba addressed a meeting of his EU counterparts via video link from a shelter in Kyiv and urged them to provide more air defences and sanction Iran over drone supplies to Russia after strikes pummelled the city.
“While Dmytro Kuleba addresses (us) from a bomb shelter, we raise EU military assistance to 3.1 billion euros ($3 billion) and launch the EU military training mission for Ukraine,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted from the meeting in Luxembourg.
“Russia’s latest indiscriminate attacks will not shake our determination to support Ukraine, it will only reinforce it.”
After almost eight months of war, Ukraine’s forces are making progress on the battlefield and Kyiv’s western backers are keen to make sure its troops have the capacity to keep fighting.
Several EU nations — including Germany and France — are already training Ukrainians to use the modern artillery systems, missile launchers and air defences they are delivering to Kyiv.
But the EU has lagged behind in providing large-scale training to help the country’s military face off against Russia’s invading forces.
The United States, Canada and Britain have already been training thousands of troops.
The European training mission should become operational next month and will have a budget of around 105 million euros for an initial two-year period.
An official said the plan is to provide basic training to 12,000 soldiers and specialised instruction to 2,800 more.
Ukraine’s neighbour Poland is due to serve as the main hub for the mission and Germany is also set to be a key staging post for training.
Programmes currently run by individual member states are set to continue and could be incorporated in the EU mission later.
The new tranche of 500 million euros takes the overall contribution for weapons from the EU’s central coffers to three billion euros. Member states have also spent more from their own pockets.
Kuleba tweeted that he was “probably the first foreign minister” to address such an EU meeting from a bomb shelter because of air raid sirens in Kyiv.
“Requested more air defense and supply of ammo. Called on EU to impose sanctions on Iran for providing Russia with drones,” he wrote.
He also called for a “strong” new package of sanctions to be imposed on Moscow.
EU ministers discussed the alleged use of Iranian-made drones by Moscow to hit targets in Ukraine, but no punishment was expected yet.
Tehran has rejected accusations it has supplied Russia with weapons “to be used in the war in Ukraine”.
Brussels says it is conducting a probe into possible violations of a United Nations resolution and could impose sanctions.
“We will look for concrete evidence about the participation that Iran in the strongest possible terms denies,” Borrell said.
The EU, which is currently mediating stalled efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, has lagged behind Washington on imposing sanctions on Tehran.
The bloc did, however, agree to sanction 15 officials and entities in Iran over the crackdown on protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
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