The European Union plans to take the unprecedented step of funding weapons purchases for Ukraine, EU officials declared on Sunday, as the bloc announced a raft of new sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion.
The EU plan will not only fund military purchases, such as air-defense systems and anti-tank weapons for Ukraine’s armed forces, but also protective gear and first-aid kits as well.
“This war requires our engagement in order to support the Ukrainian army,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. The EU agreed “to provide arms — lethal arms, lethal assistance — to the Ukrainian army,” with a “€450 million support package and €50 million more for the non-lethal supplies,” such as fuel and protective equipment.
The plan was agreed upon at an emergency videoconference of EU foreign affairs ministers on Sunday evening.
“This is a watershed moment”
“For the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared. “This is a watershed moment.”
EU treaties bar the bloc from using its normal budget to fund operations with military or defense implications, but under the plans announced on Sunday, the EU will use an off-budget so-called “European Peace Facility” financing instrument with a ceiling of €5 billion that can be used to provide military aid.
The amount represents 10% of the €5 billion allocated to the “European Peace Facility” for the 2021-2027 budget cycle.
Other historic Greece, EU measures
A ban on pro-Russian media outlets and the closure of EU airspace to Russian planes was also introduced on Sunday.
Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik are part of the “Kremlin’s media machine,” and the EU is “developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe,” von der Leyen said, adding that they will “no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union.”
EU airspace was also closed to Russia after numerous individual EU member states, alongside Britain and Canada, announced they would ban Russian planes. The EU airspace ban will prohibit flights into or over the EU by “every Russian plane,” including “the private jets of oligarchs,” von der Leyen said.
The EU also will hit Russian ally Belarus with sanctions for facilitating the Ukrainian invasion.
The regime of Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka had been “complicit in the vicious attack against Ukraine,” von der Leyen charged. The new restrictive measures will hit Belarus’s most important sectors, including cement and steel.
Greece sends weapons, military aid to Ukraine
Greece will dispatch military aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia, it was decided on Sunday during a meeting held by Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis and defense officials.
It sent Ukraine -via Poland – two C-130 transport aircraft loaded with military aid, such as Kalashnikov rifles and portable rocket launchers. A separate shipment of humanitarian aid was also to be sent immediately, accompanied by deputy defense Minister Nikos Hardalias.
On Monday two more flights left Greece with military equipment.
The decision follows the Russian advance in Ukraine and the killing of at least 10 ethnic Greeks near the city of Mariupol on Saturday by Russian fire.
Greece supports Ukraine, condemns Russia
At an emergency meeting of the National Foreign Affair and Defense Council (KYSEA) in Athens reiterated that Greece will coordinate with the European Union and NATO for a response that will be “proportional to the unprecedented Russian provocation.
“As a matter of principle, Greece respects the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of all countries. It therefore unequivocally condemns revisionist actions that run counter to these values,” Mitsotakis said.