THE European Union have approved supplying weapons for the first time in its history to a state outside the bloc, in what is being regarded as an historic development.
The package of support to Ukraine will also be humanitarian and worth 500 million euros.
Plans were announced by the Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen last night and were ratified this evening.
They also include shutting down EU airspace for Russians – a decision that more than a dozen EU members had already announced – and impose a ban on state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries.
“In view of Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine and the escalating situation, the council today agreed on a new set of measures that will impose severe consequences on Russia for its actions. Such decisions was agreed in close coordination with EU’s partners and allies,” a strongly worded statement from the Commission said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“Firstly the council adopted two assistances measures under the European Peace Facility (EPF) that will contribute to strengthening the capabilities and resilience of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, and protect the civilian population against the ongoing military aggression.
“The assistance measures, worth in total EUR 500 000 000, will finance the provision of equipment and supplies to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, including – for the first time – lethal equipment.
“Following the request by Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine, we are immediately responding by mobilising the European Peace Facility for two emergency assistance measures to finance the supply of lethal and non-lethal material to the Ukrainian army.
“This is the first time in history that the EU will be providing lethal equipment to a third country. We are doing everything we can to support Ukraine, we stand by the Ukrainian people.”
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The statement went on to say that the Council adopted severe restrictive measures related to aviation and finance meaning that EU member states will deny permission to “land in, take off from or overfly their territories” to any aircraft operated by Russia.
It said this would include “a marketing carrier, or to any Russian registered aircraft, or to non-Russian registered aircraft which are owned or chartered, or otherwise controlled by a Russian legal or natural person”.
In terms of financial measures, the commission said “it will be prohibited to make transactions with the Russian Central Bank or any legal person, entity or body acting on behalf or at the direction of the Russian Central Bank”.
It added: “The European Union condemns in the strongest possible terms the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine, as well as the involvement of Belarus in this aggression.
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“The European Union demands that Russia immediately ceases its military actions, unconditionally withdraws all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine and fully respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders.
“The European Council calls on Russia and Russia-backed armed formations to respect international humanitarian law and stop their disinformation campaign and cyber-attacks.
“The use of force and coercion to change borders has no place in the 21st century. Tensions and conflict should be resolved exclusively through dialogue and diplomacy.
“The EU will continue cooperating closely with neighbours and reiterates its unwavering support for, and commitment to, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and of the Republic of Moldova. It will continue strong coordination with partners and allies, within the UN, OSCE, NATO and the G7.”
Announcing the plans last night the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “Another taboo has fallen. The taboo that the European Union was not providing arms in a war.”
The commission’s plans followed the announcement earlier on Sunday that Germany was committing 100 billion euros (£84 billion) to a special armed forces fund and would keep its defence spending above 2% of GDP from now on.
The shift underscored how Russia’s war on Ukraine was rewriting Europe’s post-Second World War security and defence policy in ways that were unthinkable only a few weeks ago.
Anti-war protesters took to the streets in Berlin, Rome, Prague, Istanbul and other cities on Sunday – even Russian cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg and in a dozen Belarusian cities – to demand an end to the war, the largest ground offensive on the continent since the Second World War.
The EU will fund weapons purchases and will use millions of euros to help buy air defence systems, anti-tank weapons, ammunition and other military equipment to Ukraine’s armed forces. It will also supply things such as fuel, protective gear, helmets and first aid kits.
Monday night’s announcement from Brussels came as an embattled Ukraine moved to strengthen its bond with the West by signing an application to join the European Union, while the first round of Ukraine-Russia talks aimed at ending the fighting concluded with no immediate agreements.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky posted photos of himself signing the EU application, a development unlikely to sit well with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has long accused the West of trying to pull Ukraine into its orbit.
Russian and Ukrainian officials held their meeting on day five of the war under the shadow of Mr Putin’s nuclear threats, and with Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine running into unexpectedly fierce resistance.Early Monday night, a top adviser to Ukraine’s president said that the first round of talks with Russia had ended and that both delegations had returned home for consultations in their capitals.
Mr Putin dramatically escalated East-West tensions on Sunday by ordering Russian nuclear forces to be put on high alert as the invasion of Ukraine continues. Fighting across the country is now in its fifth day.