Paris to send more Caesar truck-mounted howitzers to Kiev: Minister
The French Defense Minister says a new batch of howitzers would be delivered to Ukraine in the coming weeks.
French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu confirmed on Tuesday that France will send 12 more Caesar truck-mounted howitzers to Ukraine.
The artillery pieces, adding to 18 already delivered, would be financed from a 200-million-euro ($217-million) fund that France set up to fund arms for Kiev, Lecornu indicated in a joint Paris press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov.
The French Minister said the new batch of howitzers would be delivered in the coming weeks.
Denmark has also pledged its entire 19-strong fleet of French-made howitzers to Ukraine.
France was by early December the 7th-largest supporter of Ukraine since the war broke out, according to data on military and financial aid collated by the Germany-based Institute for the World Economy think-tank -- not yet taking into account major announcements of military equipment last month.
But European donors remain far short of the United States' military aid commitments.
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Ukraine to receive between 120 and 140 heavy Western tanks
In a related context, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday that Kiev was expecting up to 140 heavy tanks.
"Ukraine's armed forces will receive between 120 and 140 modern Western tanks," Kuleba told reporters, describing the figure as the "first wave of contributions."
"These are Leopard 2, Challenger 2, M1 Abrams," he indicated, without specifying a timeline for the deliveries.
"We are very much counting on the Leclerc, too," the Ukrainian Minister noted, referring to the French battle tank.
According to Kuleba, 12 countries have agreed to provide Ukraine with tanks.
After weeks of deliberations, the US and Germany announced last week the deliveries of their heavy Abrams and Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
Kiev in negotiations to receive fighter jets, long-range missiles
Elsewhere, Kuleba said Kiev was in negotiations to receive Western fighter jets and long-range missiles.
However, on Monday, US President Joe Biden followed the lead of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and claimed that he will not be sending fighter jets to Ukraine.
"No," Biden said when asked by reporters at the White House if he was in favor of sending F-16 fighters, which Ukraine's leaders have said are at the top of their latest weapons wish list.
On the other hand, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki pointed out that Poland can hand over its F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine only in coordination with other NATO partners.
On his part, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would not rule out France delivering fighter jets to Ukraine but warned against the risk of escalation in the conflict.
However, Macron set out a series of "criteria" before making any decision. These included that Ukraine must first make the request, that any arms would "not be escalatory," and that they would "not be likely to hit Russian soil but purely to aid the resistance effort."
The French President noted that the Ukrainians "are not making this request at the moment for fighter jets."
It is noteworthy that even though the West has not yet decided on the deliveries of fighter jets, Ukraine has already compiled a list of some 50 pilots, who are ready to start training on F-16s, speak English, and have a track record of "thousands of combat missions," Politico revealed, citing a Pentagon official and a Ukrainian official, as well as three other people familiar with the matter.
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