France’s defense minister pledged more military support for Ukraine on Wednesday, insisting his government’s support is unwavering, while also making efforts to reach a negotiating end with Moscow to end the Russian aggression.
Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu said French support would include French military equipment and a 200-million-euro ($212 million) fund to allow Ukraine to buy weapons.
While France has been less vocal in its military support for Ukraine than the United States and Britain, Russia has sent a steady supply of arms since invading the country on 24 February.
The country also hosted two aid conferences for Ukraine this month. But many in Ukraine remain critical of the French government’s response to the war because of President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to maintain contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin and seek a negotiated solution.
Lecornu said the government would provide French military equipment to the Ukrainian military, but stressed that this would not weaken France’s defence. France could provide a new air defense system in the future, officials said, without disclosing details, although Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said France would immediately begin training Ukrainian air officers on its use.
Lecornu and Reznikov did not specify which new air defense systems France could offer Ukraine in the near future. But Lecornu referred to the MAMBA anti-missile system developed together with Italy, describing it as the European equivalent of the Patriot air defense system that the United States delivered to Kyiv.
Unlike the US government, which announced it would phase out the Patriots before teaching Ukrainians how to use it, France would first train Ukrainians so it could provide a new system, like the Mamba SAMP/T, to Italy. once they are ready. It’s ready to use, Lecornu’s office told The Associated Press.
Reznikov said that Ukraine’s priority is “air defense, anti-missile defense and anti-drone defense, that is, the task of protecting Ukrainian skies.” Reznikov said that the French Crotel air defense systems are already “in combat duty”.
Charlton reported from Paris.