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Ukrainian, French defence ministers pledge to work together on arms

Published Sep 28, 2023 19:39
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© Reuters. Ukraine's Defence Minister Rustem Umerov and his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu shake hands after a joint press briefing, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine September 28, 2023. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

(Reuters) - France and Ukraine pledged on Thursday to work together to continue securing arms for Kyiv's three-month-old counteroffensive against Russian occupying forces and to jointly develop weapons production.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov said he and his French counterpart had focused on boosting cooperation in terms of training Kyiv's armed forces and in the technical field.

"Dozens of projects have either been launched or are under discussion, aimed at organising joint production of new weapons or maintenance of weapons already with us," Umerov told a news conference alongside French minister Sebastien Lecornu.

The two sides, he said, were considering the establishment of a fund "to support joint ventures with our partners and companies which want to begin production in Ukraine".

Lecornu said France would "continue to help Ukraine as much as is necessary," but gave no details on arms that might yet be provided.

"This war could keep going on," he told reporters. "Let me restate our confidence in the Ukrainian arms for making this counteroffensive a success."

Ukraine's counteroffensive has focused on retaking areas of eastern Ukraine seized by Russian troops earlier this year and in advancing south to sever a land bridge established by Russia between annexed Crimea and positions held in the east.

France and Ukraine, Lecornu said, would consider "what we can do together in terms of (arms) acquisition or production". And Paris would maintain its current levels of training Ukrainian soldiers -- more than 7,000 this year.

Lecornu earlier discussed possibilities for joint weapons production with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

"I discussed with your ministers very specifically how French industry can help you. We, of course, will continue this work," Lecornu said in a video published by Zelenskiy on the Telegram messenger app.

Lecornu and Zelenskiy discussed bolstering Ukraine's air defences ahead of winter, the president's office said in a statement. Kyiv fears Russia will conduct a campaign of air strikes on critical energy infrastructure this winter.

Zelenskiy said he was grateful to French President Emmanuel Macron for military assistance, pointing in particular to the supply of anti-aircraft missile systems, Caesar self-propelled artillery units and Scalp cruise missiles.

Ukrainian, French defence ministers pledge to work together on arms
 

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