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28 Jan, 2023 03:42

NATO state unveils its largest Ukraine arms package

The Belgian government, however, says it is unable to supply Leopard tanks to Kiev after pulling the weapon from service in 2014
NATO state unveils its largest Ukraine arms package

Belgium has authorized a new round of military aid for Ukraine worth €92 million ($100 million), the largest weapons package the EU state has sent to Kiev since the conflict with Russia began last year. The arms will include anti-aircraft munitions, armored vehicles, and anti-tank grenades. 

The decision was announced  on Friday, with Belgian officials noting that some of the weapons would come from the country's existing inventories, while the remaining portion would be purchased directly from arms manufacturers.

“Since the start of this war, our country has made a lot of efforts to support Ukraine,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told reporters. “In total, our country has already given €146 million in military aid. Today, the Council of Ministers decided to send a new package of €92 million in military aid to Ukraine.”

While Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder declined to give exact numbers for what Kiev will receive, she said the package will include grenades, ammunition, anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank weapons, light armored vehicles, machine guns, and assault rifles.

The package also includes the US-made AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs), which Washington agreed to sell to Belgium in November. Though it is designed to be fired from an aircraft, the missile is also compatible with the ground-based NASAMS launcher, several of which have been provided to Kiev by Washington.

According to local media reports, the new arms package will include a number of Volvo N10 heavy utility trucks, which were removed from Belgium’s arsenal in 2021 after they were found to provide “no or insufficient protection to the crew.” Several dozen Iveco LMV tactical vehicles are also reportedly destined for Ukraine, even after the military discovered a design flaw in its armor and decided to phase out the platform by 2026. Officials said some of the gear will undergo maintenance before being shipped out, though it’s unclear if that will address the defects.

Dedonder went on to explain that Brussels cannot follow the US, Germany, and other European partners and supply tanks to Ukraine, as Belgium sold off its aging Leopard 1 battle tanks to private companies in 2014 and has no comparable weapon to offer. 

“We haven’t found a way to answer that question. We no longer have them in stock and we have not found any operational units on the market,” she said, adding that while the government approached some firms about purchasing tanks, it was unable to find a reasonable deal.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky later thanked Brussels in a statement posted to Twitter, saying the weapons will “strengthen our air defense, help deter enemy tanks [and] improve the mobility of our defenders.”

Russia has repeatedly urged the West to stop “pumping” Ukraine with weaponry, arguing it would only prolong the conflict and lead to more bloodshed.