Alert: Russia may intercept details of Czech ammo delivery to Ukraine

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Three months into starting a significant ammunition purchase for Ukraine, Czech officials have different views on how it’s going. “The Czech-led effort to fund and acquire urgent artillery ammunition for Ukraine is moving along steadily. We’ve contracted the first 180,000 shells, which should arrive by June,” František Šulc, the First Deputy Minister of Defense of the Czech Republic, shared with Defense News at the IDEB defense fair, held from May 14-16.

Photo credit: nytimes.com

Prague is working with other countries to get more money and ensure a steady supply of ammunition to Ukraine in the coming months, Šulc added. However, not everyone is as hopeful about this plan to source 122mm and 155mm artillery shells from around the world. 

In a recent interview with the German news outlet Tagesschau, Czech President Petr Pavel mentioned that the initiative isn’t moving as quickly as expected. One reason for this is that the Russian government has learned about the operation’s details. “Publicizing our plan brought international support, but it also gave Russia an advantage,” Pavel noted. “This is why the initiative isn’t moving as fast as we hoped,” he remarked.

The Czech proposal

The Czech Republic is moving forward with its plan to help Ukraine by supplying it with artillery ammunition. They have financial support and are looking for shells outside of Europe. In February, Czech President Petr Pavel said they found suppliers for 500,000 155mm and 300,000 122mm artillery shells from non-EU countries, as long as they get the needed funding.  

After Pavel’s announcement, the plan gained support quickly. Over a dozen countries have pledged millions of dollars. So far, nearly 20 allies—including Canada, Germany, France, Norway, the Netherlands, and Belgium—are supporting the Czech-led mission. 

At a meeting on March 19 in Ramstein, Germany, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced that Germany would provide 180,000 rounds of ammunition. However, officials have not shared the cost of this support. Recently, Sweden and Portugal announced contributions of $32.6 million and $108.6 million, respectively, to support Ukraine. 

A report by The Wall Street Journal revealed that the Czech Republic plans to buy 700,000 more shells for Ukraine, bringing the total to 1.5 million rounds for $3.3 billion. Experts say Russia has a significant firepower advantage, with estimates of a 5:1 ratio over Ukraine. Russian forces are reportedly firing up to 10,000 shells daily, compared to Ukraine’s 2,000.

Growing concerns

It’s challenging for Kyiv’s allies to balance transparency and confidentiality. During the conflict in Ukraine, many have struggled with whether to reveal their strategies to Moscow or keep everything secret. Concerns have grown about Russia intercepting details about Ukraine-related military plans. This worry increased after a leaked German Air Force call discussed sending Taurus cruise missiles to Kyiv.

Šulc mentioned that over 16 European Union and NATO countries have joined an ammunition initiative, sharing their funds. They’re still ironing out some coordination issues, especially when it comes to buying from non-European vendors. “One challenge is having to buy products outside the European defense industry due to tight deadlines. This means we need to negotiate with partner nations for enough funding and deal with the rules of other countries,” Šulc explained.

He mentioned that meeting the security needs of the Ukrainian Armed Forces takes a lot of time and effort. Even though Slovakia, the host of the arms fair Šulc visited last week, chose not to join the initiative, its citizens started a private fundraiser, collecting $1.6 million in donations. Šulc said that his government respects each nation’s decision to participate or not. He added, “It’s important to stress the urgency of the Ukraine situation and the need for support.”

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