More than a dozen EU member states have agreed a deal to send at least 1 million artillery shells to Ukraine over the coming year to bolster its defences against Russia’s invasion.
Ukraine has identified the supply of 155mm shells as a critical need as it engages in a fierce war of attrition with Moscow’s forces.
Both sides are firing thousands of artillery rounds every day, and both Ukrainian and Western leaders have warned in recent weeks that Kyiv is burning through shells more quickly than its allies can replenish them. The Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, hailed the decision as “game-changing”.
“We have reached a political consensus to send to Ukraine 1 million rounds of 155mm calibre ammunition,” Estonian defence minister Hanno Pevkur told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign and defence ministers in Brussels.
“There are many, many details still to [be] solved, but for me, it is most important that we conclude these negotiations, and it shows me one thing: if there is a will, there is a way,” said Mr Pevkur, whose country had championed the move.
“Exactly what is needed,” Mr Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “Urgent delivery and sustainable joint procurement.”
The plan approved by ministers was based on a proposal by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, to spend €1bn on shells from stockpiles to get more supplies to Kyiv as soon as possible, and €1bn more on joint procurement.
The deal will likely mean each country will have to share details of their ammunition stockpiles – something normally kept secret. Mr Borrell called the approval of the plan “historic”.
As part of the initiative, a group of 17 EU members plus Norway signed a document known as a project arrangement, setting out the terms of a joint endeavour to swiftly buy 155mm ammunition as well as a longer-term programme to buy other ammunition. Such procurement has largely been in the hands of individual member governments until now.
The new joint effort will be led by the EU’s European Defence Agency, which said the common approach was “the best option to achieve cost reduction from economies of scale”.
German defence minister Boris Pistorius, whose country is taking part in the joint procurement initiative, described it as “new territory” for the EU. He said Germany would also open its national framework contracts with the defence industry to other partners, as speed was of the essence.
“Our goal has to be to ship a significant amount of munitions to Ukraine before the end of this year,” he said.
Separately, the US has announced it will send another $350m (£285m) worth of weapons and equipment, as fierce battles continue for control of the eastern city of Bakhmut.
The latest package of aid includes a large amount of various types of ammunition, such as rockets for high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS), and an undisclosed number of fuel tanker trucks and riverine boats.
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said the package also provides more ammunition for howitzers, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, high-speed anti-radiation (HARM) missiles, and anti-tank weapons.
“Russia alone could end its war today. Until Russia does we will stand united with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Mr Blinken said in a statement.
At an internal conference in London on Monday, £4m was raised to support the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its investigations into alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Justice ministers from more than 40 countries met for the conference, just days after the global court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The court accuses Mr Putin of being responsible for the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine. Moscow has called the warrant “outrageous”.
The justice secretary, Dominic Raab, said as he opened the meeting: “We share the belief that President Putin and the wider leadership must be held to account … Let’s make sure that we back up our words with deeds, that we back up our moral support with practical means to effectively investigate these awful crimes.”
Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, said the warrant for Mr Putin was not a moment of triumph but a “sombre occasion”, reminding the world of the need for justice in Ukraine.
“If we don’t at this moment of world affairs cling to the law, if we don’t look at ourselves and ask how we can do better – we will not only miss an opportunity, but we may not have further opportunities,” Mr Khan said.