MILAN – A proposed Czech-led bulk artillery ammunition purchase for Ukraine is picking up steam, as countries commit to bank-rolling the effort while sourcing shells from non-European vendors.

Czech President Petr Pavel said in February that Prague had identified 500,000 155mm artillery shells and 300,000 122mm rounds outside the European Union that could be sent to Ukraine if necessary funds were secured.

Shortly after this announcement, over a dozen countries joined the mission, contributing millions of dollars. So far, Pavel’s government has succeeded at gathering the support of almost 20 other allies, Canada, Germany, France, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Speaking at a March 19 meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Ramstein, Germany, German Defense Minister Borius Pistorius said Berlin would pay for 180,000 rounds. Defense officials in Berlin declined to put a price tag on the commitment.

Some of the most recent members to join are Sweden and Portugal, which said on March 14, that they contributed $32,6 million and $108,6 million to the efforts, respectively.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, the Czechs have marked an additional 700,000 shells that could possibly be bought for Ukrainian troops. This would bring the total purchase to 1.5 million rounds, at a cost of $3.3 billion, the newspaper reported.

Experts have pegged Russia’s firepower advantage at 5:1 for over Ukraine, with Russian forces firing as many as 10,000 shells per day, compared to 2,000 by Ukraine.

Questions still remain about how quickly the Czech-led initiative could bring fresh ammunition to frontline troops in Ukraine. Czech national security advisor Tomas Pojar has said that the first rounds could be shipped by June.

Officials in Prague have made it clear that they are ready to negotiate with almost any third-country vendor that could commit to making a contribution to the bulk purchase, with a few exceptions, including North Korea.

Leaders in France, initially apprehensive about buying from abroad, have come around on the subject. “The Czech initiative is extremely useful, we support it and we’ll participate in it,” President Emmanuel Macron said in Prague on March 5 following a meeting with his Czech counterpart. “It consists of looking for ammunition everywhere it is available and is compatible with the equipment we’ve delivered.”

The German newspaper Bild reported this month that some of the third countries from which Prague has managed to source the rounds from include South Korea, South Africa and Turkey.

In a joint article published on March 16 on the Czech website Denik, the Foreign Ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic wrote that “this is not the time to be picky… Ukraine needs these missiles now. On the frontline, it does not matter where they come from.”

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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