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Germany Offers Howitzers to Lithuania

April 15, 2015 (Photo Credit: Petras Malukas/AFP)

VILNIUS, Lithuania — Germany said Wednesday it wants to sell howitzer-type mobile artillery vehicles to Lithuania as the Baltic NATO nation boosts its defenses amid concerns over neighboring Russia.

"It is possible to give those 12 howitzer tanks to Lithuania," German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told journalists in Vilnius.

Von Der Leyen did not disclose the price, but said experts would invoke a "solidarity" clause when they finalize the deal next month.

German media reported the hardware was used by Berlin in Afghanistan and is now worth €15 million ($16 million).

"We are interested in moving fast," Lithuanian Army Col. Romualdas Petkevicius in charge of weapon procurement told AFP, adding he hoped the hardware would arrive next year.

Lithuania is seeking "PzH 2000"-type howitzers. Petkevicius said the Baltic state was also mulling whether to buy German Boxer-type armored fighting vehicles.

Under Moscow's thumb until 1991, Lithuania along with fellow Baltic states Estonia and Latvia launched a concerted drive to boost defenses since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine last year.

NATO members since 2004, the three Baltic states have repeatedly asked allies to step up their presence to deter Russia.

Berlin will send over 500 troops to Lithuania for military exercises this year.

NATO is also reinforcing its defenses on Europe's eastern flank with a rapid reaction force of 5,000 troops and command centers in six formerly communist members of the alliance, including the three Baltic states.

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