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Ukraine to make shells with US firms as it seeks to develop defence sector

file photo: the scranton army ammunition plant in scranton, pennsylvania
FILE PHOTO: 155mm artillery shells at the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant in Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Kyiv has agreed with two American firms to jointly manufacture vital 155mm artillery shells in Ukraine, a Ukrainian minister said on Thursday, although production will not start for at least two years.

Demand for 155mm rounds soared following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The U.S. and allies have sent Kyiv more than 2 million and are trying, with limited success, to increase production to replenish stocks.

“We have agreements with two leading American companies to jointly produce, in Ukraine, 155-calibre ammunition,” Oleksandr Kamyshin, minister for strategic industries, said in televised comments.

But he noted that Ukraine had never produced such shells and it would be “a minimum of two years, a maximum of three” before production could begin.

The announcement follows a two-day Ukraine-U.S. defence conference held in Washington, which included bilateral meetings to discuss Ukraine’s battlefield plans for 2024 and measures to make it happen.

Kyiv and Washington signed a letter of intent at the forum to speed up weapons co-production and technical data exchange to meet the urgent needs of the Ukrainian army in air defence systems, maintenance, and production of critical ammunition.

CONCERNS GROW ABOUT FOREIGN SUPPORT

Ukraine’s defence sector, which for decades was dogged by underinvestment, red tape and corruption, is trying to compete with Russia’s far more advanced military industry and high budget support.

And, as the war nears the end of its second year with no end in sight, concerns are growing that Western supplies may be faltering as political support erodes and manufacturing capacity is still lacking as allies’ own stockpiles dwindle.

On Wednesday, Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked an emergency bill that would provide about $60 billion in military and economic support for Ukraine, threatening hopes that the badly needed funds can be approved by the end of the year.

“For us, it is a matter of survival to create a military industry that matches the scale of the enemy’s industrial capacity,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov was quoted as saying on the conference website.

Kyiv also hopes that it can become integrated into the West’s military landscape by promoting joint weapons production and supplies in a “common defence industry space”.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine did not want to rely solely on military aid from allies and aimed to become a donor of security for neighbours in the future.

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