Special Capitals: What Europeans do to support Ukraine

EURACTIV has looked into whether European countries have put their money where their mouths are. [EPA-EFE/DAREK DELMANOWICZ]

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Ukraine has been calling for the delivery of heavy weapons for weeks. To defend itself against the Russian offensive in the Donbas, Kyiv needs anti-missile systems, anti-aircraft systems, armoured vehicles and tanks, and other heavy equipment.

NATO has been ready to support Ukraine in the war against Russia for years, including help for Kyiv to shift from Soviet-era weapons to modern Western arms and systems, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday (28 April).

Most of the heavy weapons NATO countries have sent to Ukraine are Soviet-built arms still in the inventories of east European NATO member states.

Meanwhile, breaking a long-standing ‘taboo’ in its defence policy, the EU agreed to support the Ukrainian resistance through the European Peace Facility with a set of measures ranging from personal protection equipment, first aid kits, fuel and military equipment to defensive platforms designed to deliver lethal force.

However, according to EU officials, the instrument, currently having firepower of €1.5 billion, could and should provide much more assistance if member states would be more willing to do so.

EURACTIV has looked into whether European countries have put their money where their mouths are.

How united is the EU in supporting Ukraine against Russia’s invasion, how much aid has the world’s largest single market been able to provide, and how willing were European leaders to personally show support by visiting a Ukraine under attack?


WESTERN EUROPE

BERLIN

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has not yet visited Ukraine, while Kyiv prevented an attempted visit by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. However, a cross-party delegation of leading MPs from the governing parties has visited the country.

Following an initial U-turn on arms deliveries referred to as Zeitenwende, which saw 1,000 anti-tank weapons, 500 “Stinger” surface-to-air missiles, some 2,700 “Strela” anti-aircraft missiles, and ammunition being supplied to Ukraine, the German government has kept a tight lid on its activities.

The most recent media reports of 21 April put the total at 2500 anti-aircraft missiles, 900 anti-tank guns with 3000 rounds of ammunition, 100 machine guns and 15 bunker busters. Furthermore, the German government supplied the Ukrainians with 100,000 hand grenades, 2000 mines and 5,300 explosive charges, as well as 16 million rounds of ammunition for handheld arms.

At the beginning of April, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht stated that the German government had delivered the second-most arms if measured by weight, third-most if going by value, which she put at €80 billion.

Despite the secrecy, the debate in Berlin has centred on whether the country should supply “heavy weaponry,” a term used to refer to heavy calibre artillery or tanks.

On 21 April, the government announced its intention to undergo a ring-swap, giving modern tanks to Slovenia in exchange for Soviet-era tanks going to Ukraine. This swap has yet actually to happen, as per Slovenian media sources.

The latest from Berlin has been the announcement that “Gepard” tanks will be provided to Ukraine, although munition for the tanks, which the German army hasn’t used in a decade, has yet to be procured from Brazil. Similarly, Scholz has announced his intention to supply grenade launchers with a range of up to six kilometres and training for Ukrainian soldiers in the use of mortars with a range of 40 kilometres. 

Financially, Berlin provided a €150 million loan on 14 February, with another €50 million a year ringfenced for a green recovery. The finance ministry has been rather tight-lipped about Germany’s share of the €24 billion the G7 states have pledged for Ukraine. 

The humanitarian aid by the newish German government has amounted to a total of €370 million for Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. In contrast, another fast-tracked development aid programme will see €122 million disbursed.

Politically, the newish government struggles with the pacifist wing of Scholz’s social democrats, personified by the party’s parliament whip Rolf Mützenich. 

Additionally, the largest opposition party, the conservative CDU, is feuding with the government over its security policy revamp. Their support is needed to pass Scholz’s extraordinary €100 billion modernisation fund for the army.

On the fringes, the far-right AfD and the far-left Die Linke have condemned arms deliveries to Ukraine, saying that the government should focus on diplomatic efforts instead. They are largely considered a gate for Kremlin propaganda, as they historically are closer to Russia than the West.

On 29 April, a letter signed by various public personalities called upon Scholz to limit arms deliveries to Ukraine, especially heavy ones, and to do his utmost to avoid a third world war, which has largely been decried as in service to Russian interests.

(Nikolaus J. Kurnayer | EURACTIV.de)

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PARIS

The first weeks of Russia’s war on Ukraine coincided with the French Presidential election campaigns, where newly re-elected President Emmanuel Macron positioned himself as a strong defender of Europe and a supporter of Ukraine. 

His main opposition comes from the far-right of French politics, which is pro-Russian, something Marine Le Pen tried to play down during the second round of the presidential election. 

By the end of the election campaign, she was on the record agreeing with most European sanctions and even favouring France hosting refugees from Ukraine – a big step for a party hostile to foreigners. In third place was the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has advocated for de-escalation and peace but has traditionally been non-aligned and somewhat sceptical of both the EU and NATO.

To date, military support from France has consisted of €100m of military equipment delivered to Ukraine, including defensive and optronic equipment, weapons and ammunition, weapons systems, fuel, and artillery guns. 

On the humanitarian front, France sent 55 tons of material in March, including medical equipment (medicines and oxygen generators), milk for children, IT equipment (smartphones, computers, routers as well as 60km of fibre optics), and 31 generators to reinforce the country’s electrical security. Additionally, a package of €300m was released to help prop up the Ukrainian economy. 

France remains a strong advocate of continuing the flow of aid to Ukraine and is also sending investigators and gendarmes to help collect evidence of Russian war crimes in the country. While a French cross-party delegation went to Ukraine in early April, Macron so far has not, though he remains open to the idea.

(Davide Basso | EURACTIV.fr)

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VIENNA

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer visited Ukraine on 8 April, followed by a contentious visit to the Kremlin on 11 April.

As a neutral country, the alpine republic has resisted sending arms to Ukraine, although it has sent 10,000 helmets and body armour and 100,000 litres of fuel for civilian use.

Vienna has been more generous for humanitarian purposes, providing €17.5 million in aid for the Red Cross and other NGOs. The Austrian government is also contributing €10 million to the World Bank’s Ukraine assistance programme.

Politically, the issue of supporting Ukraine is fraught. Given Austria’s history of post-WW II neutrality, there were questions about whether Austria could support Ukraine. Nehammer quickly shut down the discussion over whether continued neutrality had merit.

A possible appearance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had become similar problematic, as the far-right FPÖ is blocking him from addressing the Austrian legislative. Initially, the Social Democrats (SPÖ) also opposed Zelenskyy addressing the Parliament but have since changed their mind following the Bucha massacre.

Additionally, both the Austrian government and the FPÖ have been sceptical of whether Ukraine’s accession to the EU should be fast-tracked, with foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg calling for an alternative approach.

“Holding out the prospect of EU accession to Ukraine and at the same time to Georgia and Moldova only raises false hopes that simply cannot be fulfilled,” said Harald Vilimsky, leader of the FPÖ delegation in the European Parliament.
(Laura Kabelka | EURACTIV.de) 

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BRUSSELS

In Belgium, the coalition government is vocal in its support for Ukraine. 

The political mainstream has condemned Russia, in line with most countries in Europe. The sole exception is the far-left Belgian Workers Party, which blames the US & NATO for provoking Moscow. 

The party – which accounts for 12% of Belgian MPs and is currently polling at around 16% (Flanders 8.5%, Wallonia 19%) – voted against sanctions and condemnations, considering them too partisan.

There have not been any high-level Belgian visits to Ukraine. However, it should be noted that during this period, Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès, one of the most likely candidates to travel, has taken a leave of absence to care for her sick husband. 

In his position as European Council President, Former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel visited the Ukrainian capital.

Incumbent Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that the country had provided €76.9 million in support to the Ukrainian army. Donations have included 5000 assault rifles, 200 anti-tank weapons, 3800 tonnes of fuel and other protective equipment.

Belgium has also allocated €13.09 million to humanitarian programmes in Ukraine and €2.1 million to support those countries neighbouring Ukraine that have accepted refugees.

(Chris Powers | EURACTIV.com) 

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THE HAGUE

Dutch leader Mark Rutte has remained in The Hague since the outbreak of war, having paid a visit to Kyiv shortly before bombs started to drop.

Rutte pledged the Netherlands’ support to Ukraine during a meeting with Zelenskyy in the Ukrainian capital on 2 February, a promise the nation has since backed with military and humanitarian aid.

On 14 April, the Netherlands sent a Dutch anti-aircraft missile system, with armoured Howitzers following on 26 April. Troops have also been on the move – around 150 Dutch soldiers have been transferred to Slovakia as part of a German-led initiative to reinforce the eastern flank of the NATO area.

The Hague has released some €20 million in emergency humanitarian aid for Ukraine, with a further €10 million for Moldova, aimed at helping the country deal with the flow of Ukrainians fleeing war.

Dutch-based international aid organisations have been highly active in Ukraine, providing food, water, medicine, and shelter. The Dutch government gave a €1.5 million grant to the Red Cross to support its humanitarian work.

The Dutch people have also put their collective hands in their pockets – the national fundraising campaign Giro555 has collected €160.8 million for Ukraine.

Rutte has condemned the invasion and spoken out about the importance of a united NATO, reflecting the mainstream opinion in Dutch politics.

On the fringes, pro-Russian sentiment is more common. The far-right political party, Forum voor Democratie (FvD), made headlines when its leader, Thierry Baudet, made pro-Russia comments following the invasion. 

The Russian narrative of the war in Ukraine is also fuelling radical ideas in right-wing extremist groups, broadcaster NOS has reported.

(Sofia Stuart Leeson | EURACTIV.com)

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DUBLIN 

Ireland’s long-standing principle of military neutrality has been challenged in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the country’s strong support for the war-torn country leading to a debate on the position for the first time since the Second World War.

Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has said the war should prompt “an honest rethink” of Ireland’s security and defence policy and spending (the lowest in the EU). Others, however, have called for greater protection of the principle. In February, a leftwing lawmaker from the People Before Profit party proposed a referendum to codify the policy into the constitution.

Despite the rhetoric, polling suggests there is little public appetite for abandonment of the principle.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal when he visited Ireland on 20 April but has not made the journey abroad. Instead, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney visited Kyiv on 14 April, meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

The Fine Gael TD also visited the site of the massacre at Bucha, from where he called for war crimes investigations and announced an extra €3 million in funding for the International Criminal Court, €1 million of which would be dispersed immediately to the Prosecutor’s office.

No military aid has been sent by Ireland, in line with its principle of military neutrality. Dublin has instead opted to send non-lethal assistance such as fuel, helmets, vests, and medical supplies instead of weapons.

In March, Ireland announced a €20 million package of humanitarian assistance. Around €2 million of this will go to Ireland-based international NGOs working on the ground in Ukraine, Poland, and Moldova. The government also pledged €1 million in aid to Moldova – a sum that has drawn fire from some quarters for being too low.

Over 25,000 refugees have arrived from Ukraine, with the government ruling out capping arrivals. However, new arrivals are struggling to find accommodation – a symptom of the country’s ongoing housing crisis.

There has been broad support for Ukraine from across the political spectrum. Although Ireland is militarily neutral, the government has stressed that it is not politically neutral and has strongly condemned Russia’s actions.

Opposition has mainly stemmed from the far left. Members of the People Before Profit party attracted attention when they chose not to applaud Zelenskyy after addressing Ireland’s parliament earlier this month.

Two independent Irish MEPs, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace were among the 13 who voted against the European Parliament’s condemnation of the invasion due to its support for NATO and the sending of weapons to Ukraine.

(Molly Killeen | EURACTIV.com)


NORDICS AND BALTICS 

HELSINKI

Following the invasion, Helsinki sent 2,500 assault rifles, 150,000 bullets, 1,500 light anti-tank weapons, 2,000 bulletproof vests, 2,000 helmets and some 100 stretchers and two first-aid stations. 

The initial shipment has been followed by two more, the latest having been on 19 April, but there is little information on what they contained. “More detailed information on the content, manner of delivery or schedule of the assistance will not be provided to ensure that the assistance reaches its destination,” said the defence ministry. The estimated value of the shipments has been €30 million in total.

Finland has provided 17 shipments on the humanitarian front, including massive emergency accommodations for up to 5,000 people, shower tents, medical supplies, and 13 ambulances.

The Ukrainian government has also received a total of €15 million in new financial support as well as €1.5 in donations from large Finnish cities.

Nonetheless, given Finland’s 1,400 kilometres stretch of land bordering Russia, much public debate has understandably focused on whether the country should apply to join NATO.

Within days following the attack on Ukraine, support for NATO membership jumped from 20% to 50% amongst the population, with the idea currently having majority support in parliament. All opposition parties but the far-right single MP party “Power belongs to people” are in favour.

The social democrats in government continue to dither on their stance on NATO but are expected to come to a position on 14 May, which some expect to result in application end of May, likely in concert with Sweden.

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin has not yet visited Ukraine.

(Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)

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STOCKHOLM

Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has yet to visit Ukraine, although one of her social democrat MPs made the trip on 28 April.

The traditionally neutral country has helped arm Ukraine at the cost of SEK 900 million (around €87 million), of which more than half is going to the Ukrainian armed forces through the European Peace Facility. The rest went to Ukraine in the form of ammunition, 5000 helmets, 5000 pieces of body armour and 135,000 rations.

Following the invasion of Ukraine, the government increased its humanitarian aid budget by around €58 million while extending a $50 million loan guarantee for Kyiv at the World Bank. Stockholm also provided some 20,000 emergency shelters to the tune of €19 million.

Ultimately, the Swedes are primarily concerned with their domestic debate over whether and how their country should accede to NATO, given their proximity to Russia. 

The 2014 annexation of Crimea had kickstarted a security policy rethink, which resulted in the return of mandatory conscription in 2017. Ukraine’s full invasion by Russia prompted a population-wide U-turn on whether the country should accede to NATO, with Andersson stating that she’s “open” to the idea.

The conservative and far-right opposition parties support NATO membership, while the far-left are opposed and trying to force a referendum. Andersson’s social democrats continue reckoning with their historic opposition to joining the military alliance.

(Charles Szumski | EURACTIV.com)

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COPENHAGEN

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen visited Kyiv together with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, where she announced a further increase in spending on military support for Ukraine, taking the total to €134m. This spending includes M113 armoured personnel carriers, anti-tank mines, and mortar shells.

Just as the war in Ukraine has encouraged fellow Nordic countries, Sweden and Finland, to consider NATO membership, the Danish political scene is now preparing for a referendum on 1 June on potentially getting rid of Denmark’s EU opt-out on defence cooperation. 

Another notable reversal in the country has been a welcoming stance to refugees from Ukraine after years of parties from all parts of the spectrum working to dissuade refugee and migrant flows from the Middle East.

The stances taken by Denmark seem to enjoy cross-party support, with the political mainstream pulling together and even voting unanimously on some rules, such as guaranteeing English and Ukrainian language education for refugee children.

Regarding humanitarian aid, the country has spent over €67m covering a wide range of support, from donations to Danish and international organisations, medical supplies, and support for refugees.

(Chris Powers | EURACTIV.com)

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VILNIUS

Lithuania was particularly alarmed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and had even put a State of Emergency in place given its geographical proximity to Kaliningrad and Belarus. It has consistently led the European Union on sanctions against Russia, for example, being among the first to close its airspace to Russian planes.

Lithuania’s tangible support has been purely military in nature, amounting to “tens of millions of euros” (at least €30m, likely more), including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, heavy mortars, rifles, and ammunition. The country has given away so much military assistance that there is now a valid concern that sending more military supplies would risk Lithuania compromising its own defence.

Moral support and symbolic gestures have also been in abundance. Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, and the Lithuanian European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius have all visited Kyiv. There is a political consensus in the parliament with key votes now and historically in support of Ukraine passing unanimously. The Parliament has recently voted to ban the Russian ‘Z’ symbol and label Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine ‘genocide’.

On the European stage, Lithuania invested heavily in LNG fuel supplies back when Russia illegally annexed Crimea. It is now pushing hard for the EU to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels altogether. The speaker of the Parliament, among others, is currently pressuring Germany, in particular, to not stand in the way of an accelerated EU accession process for Ukraine.

(Chris Powers | EURACTIV.com)

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RIGA

In a country with a significant Russian-speaking minority, 90% of Latvians support Ukraine as it fends off the Russian invasion. However, the Russian speaking community is split, with about 20% supporting Ukraine, 20% Russia, and the rest unwilling to express an opinion.

Like neighbouring Lithuania and Estonia, there is broad cross-party support for sending help and championing the cause of Ukraine on the European and world stages. President Eigles Levits also visited Kyiv on 13 April.

Latvia has given €1.2m of financial aid to the European Peace Instrument in support of the Ukrainian military and the same amount in humanitarian aid. This aid has gone towards international organisations providing help to refugees, soldiers and their families, and media and journalists in Ukraine. 

The local level has also sought to provide help. Riga’s City Council donated 80 tonnes of aid to the Kyiv region in 11 Mercedes-Benz buses, which will also be donated to help the city restore public transport infrastructure.

Closer to home, Latvia joined Lithuania in offering use of its ports to Ukraine to export agricultural products to help sustain the Ukrainian economy and offset a looming global food crisis.

(Chris Powers | EURACTIV.com)

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TALLINN

As a proportion of GDP, Estonia is giving more support to Ukraine than any other country on Earth. In the EU, it has given the 6th most significant amount of support by value, and globally it comes ahead of much larger countries such as Spain, Canada, and Japan.

Almost all of Estonia’s aid to Ukraine has been military in nature. It has given aid to a value of €230 million, including Javelin antitank missiles, 122-mm howitzers, antitank mines, small arms, ammunition, vehicles, fuel, communications equipment, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and food parcels.

In cooperation with Germany, Estonia also donated to Ukraine a field hospital and medical supplies worth almost €10 million.

In common with Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia’s support for Ukraine enjoys broad cross-party support. Even the Russian-speaking minority, which has traditionally held very positive views of Russia, has changed heart. Only 1one in four are pro-Putin and trust Russian news sources. 

While Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has yet to visit Kyiv, the President of Estonia Alar Karis accompanied the Presidents of Poland and Latvia in April to the Ukrainian capital as a political gesture, and on the European stage, Estonia has been an especially vocal advocate for Finland and Sweden to accede to NATO.

(Chris Powers | EURACTIV.com) 

EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME

Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has yet to visit Kyiv, though there is considerable speculation that the former-ECB chief will make the trip in the coming weeks.

“We will not look the other way,” said Draghi on 9 April, reiterating Italian support for the embattled nation.

To date, the Italian government has allocated roughly €150 million for military aid to Ukraine, with Rome providing both non-lethal military protective equipment and weapons.

Leaked information from the Ministry of Defence indicates that weapons to be shipped include Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, Milan anti-tank missiles, 120mm mortars, heavy and light machine guns, bulletproof vests, bullets, and munitions.

A further announcement is expected that will cover the supply of heavier arms, such as M113 and PzH2000 tracked vehicles, according to a report by Corriere della Sera.

In addition to military aid, Italy has pledged €110 million in financial assistance for the Ukrainian government, with some €26 million in humanitarian contributions.

Assistance has also extended to Poland, Moldova, and Slovakia, the countries most affected by the influx of Ukrainian refugees.

There has been broad support for Ukraine across the Italian political spectrum, with the decision to send weapons backed almost unanimously by the parliament.

Despite initial misgivings, Lega’s Matteo Salvini supported the government’s line, as did Giorgia Meloni, leader of the right-wing opposition party Fratelli d’Italia.

The only doubts surrounding the supply of military aid were voiced by the Five Star Movement (5SM), part of the governing coalition, and the Italian Left party. 

Former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, head of the 5SM, said his party would oppose the decision to send weapons that are not defensive in nature, such as heavy armaments.

(Margherita Montanari | EURACTIV.it)

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VALLETTA

Just as no Maltese leader has made the trip to Ukraine, neither has Malta donated any military equipment. The government stated that it sent €1.15 million worth of medicines in March.

Although the government is supporting Ukraine verbally and invited the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to address the parliament, the most significant news from Valletta has been the reaction of the country’s Ukrainian community.

After meeting with representatives of the Ukrainian community, the foreign ministry shared a note saying that the community was grateful for Malta’s support for Ukraine. 

Notably, Malta along with Cyprus and Greece, have refused to enforce sanctions against banning ships with Russian owners from their ports. On Thursday, Spain turned away a Maltese ship from its own ports over fears it had a Russian cargo that could infringe sanctions.

Malta has a controversial cash-for-passport scheme that has seen hundreds of Russians acquire Maltese citizenship for cash and real estate investment. These include many close to or linked to President Vladimir Putin.

(Eleonora Vasques | EURACTIV.it, Alice Taylor | Exit.al )

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MADRID

Spain’s leader, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, made the journey to Kyiv on 21 April, and it shows in the quantity of support provided to Ukraine.

The extent of Madrid’s support has resulted in the country’s largest-ever shipment of armaments to a foreign country, amounting to some 400 tonnes of military equipment, half of which is through the European Peace Facility.

On 21 April, a transport vessel of the Spanish navy shipped 30 military trucks, several heavy transport vehicles, including a plated military ambulance vehicle, and ten smaller vehicles loaded with assorted “light” military material for Ukraine. 

Previously, the Spaniards had provided the Ukrainian military with 1,370 anti-tank missiles like the Spanish “Alcotán 100” and the “C-90,” which are lighter versions of the US-made “Stinger,” as well as 700,000 rounds for rifles and machine guns.

Sánchez’s government’s policy saw a marked shift following the unveiling of the massacre conducted against the civilian population in Bucha, supplying arms instead of helmets, bulletproof vests and mine detectors. 

Spain’s heavy support rests on ardent public backing, with state-owned 

CIS released a poll showing that 70.9% of citizens are “in favour” of sending more arms to Ukraine.

Still, opposition parties have not thrown their weight behind the administration, criticising the government’s domestic policy, particularly on energy prices. The matter has become so dire that Sanchez held up the last meeting of European leaders in March to attain a derogation to heavily intervene in markets.

“The government is facing the pandemic and the war without the (help) of the main opposition party,” Sánchez told the Spanish parliament in March.

Matters are not being helped by Sánchez’s struggles with his left-wing coalition partner Unidas Podemos, which had opposed sending lethal weapons to Kyiv and continues to grumble in back rooms. The party’s Ione Belarra, minister for social rights, has publicly expressed her opposition to the latest arms shipment.

Spain has also contributed with financial aid through the European peace fund, amounting to €111 million and a specific humanitarian aid package of €31 million, of which €7 million was dedicated to protecting women and children, channelled through UNICEF and the United Nations.

Madrid has additionally sent over 20 tonnes of health materials and medicines.

(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)

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LISBON

Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa has not visited Ukraine. Similarly, MPs squabble over whether a delegation should visit the Ukrainian parliament without receiving an invitation.

On arms deliveries, Lisbon has successfully delivered 70 tonnes worth of gear, both lethal weapons and ammunition, as well as non-lethal helmets or night vision goggles. Another 100 tonnes of material are in transit, including medicine.

The Portuguese government has also sent various humanitarian aid goods worth €100,000 to Ukraine, including syringes, painkillers and emergency shelter materials like blankets.

While most of the Portuguese political class has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the fringe communist party PCP has stood out by condemning Ukraine. Two PCP MEPs are part of the mere 13 MEPs that voted against the European Parliament’s resolution condemning the war on Ukraine.

(Maria de Deus Rodrigues/Lusa.pt)

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ATHENS

Since the very beginning, the Greek government has condemned the Russian aggression and PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis immediately sent military aid.

The main opposition Syriza opposed dispatching military equipment and reacted saying the Greek Premier did not consult with any other party in advance.

“I believe that it is a great mistake and negligence of the Prime Minister that he rushed to provide military material and not primarily humanitarian […] our country is traditionally involved in peace, not a country involved in a war”.

In polls, most Greek citizens also opposed the decision to send military aid to Ukraine.

The communist party has been neutral blaming both the US and Russia for the war in Ukraine, while the populist pro-Russian “Greek Solution” party has asked to send humanitarian aid only to Greeks living in Ukraine. Both have negligible power in the Greek parliament.

Although relations between Athens and Moscow have reached an all-time low due to Greece’s strong stance against Russia, Athens has blocked sanctions aiming to ban Russian owned ships or those with Russian interests from EU ports.

In addition, a speech by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the Greek parliament on 7 April was overshadowed by the inclusion of a video message from the far-right militia group, the Azov Battalion, that was addressed to lawmakers.

Greece has provided no financial aid, but significant humanitarian and military ones. In particular, Athens sent to Ukraine 40 tonnes of defence material including seized Kalashnikov rifles and anti-tank and specific RPG-18 type weapons.

Regarding humanitarian aid, the Greek government has committed to the reconstruction of Mariupol’s maternity hospital. It has also sent 20,000 pairs of medical latex gloves, 300,000 pieces of medical protective masks (protection class not less than FFP2), 30,000 respirators , 8,000 protective suits, 1,000 hand sanitizers, and 1,000 pairs of protective glasses.

The government also provided Moldova and Slovakia with equipment to help deal with migration waves. (Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.gr)

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NICOSIA

Cyprus has not been a leader in support of Ukraine, and with the country historically awash with Russian money, it is a small wonder why. The biggest noise coming out of the country regarding Russia’s war on Ukraine was uproar across the Cypriot political spectrum that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy did not draw a direct comparison between his country’s plight and the Turkish invasion and partition of the island of Cyprus.

Generally speaking, the governing Democratic Rally (EPP) is onboard with the common European approach to Ukraine. The main opposition party, the far-left AKEL, is openly pro-Russian and accuses the government of being pro-NATO as a form of insult.

So far, Cyprus has not provided any military support, claiming that to do so would leave the country exposed to an attack by Turkey. At the start of April, the US requested that Cyprus send old military equipment it bought from Russia in the late 1990s and early 2000s to Ukraine with promises to backfill with more modern equipment. This request is being considered, but no decisions have yet been made.

However, Nicosia has contributed 215 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including food, civil protection equipment, medical and pharmaceutical supplies and other essentials. The estimated value is €2m and is the largest humanitarian aid effort carried out by the country. In addition, the Cypriot MFA has contributed over €150,000 to support Ukrainian refugees.

(Chris Powers | EURACTIV.com)


VISEGRAD 

WARSAW

Poland, a frontline NATO country and the main destination for Ukrainian refugees, emerged early in the war as key logistical hub for weapons supplies and humanitarian aid, channelling supplies through its border into the western part of Ukraine.

Politically, the county has become the strongest advocate of Ukraine’s EU membership application, with Warsaw having the legacy of initiating the Eastern Partnership format for that purpose together with Sweden in  2009. 

The Polish ruling Law and Justice (PiS) government has softened its previously hostile attitude towards the EU and buried the hatched with Ukraine over historical disputes. Before the current crisis, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had not visited Ukraine at all, and neither had his predecessor, Beata Szydło, while relations were warm and productive at the presidential level between presidents Andrzej Duda and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Morawiecki, however, was among the first to pay a surprise visit to Kyiv in support of the country, hosting a range of leaders in Warsaw and making Poland the main lobbying force on the European level for more support and stronger sanctions against Russia.

Morawiecki said Poland had provided Ukraine with weapons worth around €1.5 billion. 

Warsaw sent more than 200 T-72s – produced by the Soviet Union – into Ukraine in recent weeks along with mobile artillery, drones and rocket launchers. According to Polish defence experts, the share of donated tanks amounts to at least 25% of its 808-strong total tank arsenal.

Poland also donated air-to-air missiles for  MiG-29 and Su-27 aircraft, portable anti-aircraft missile systems  “Perun” and 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers.

(Alexandra Brzozowski | EURACTIV.com)

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PRAGUE

Czechia claims to be among the countries giving the most aid to Ukraine, with Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, saying that the Czech share in total help provided stands at 11%.

The Czech Defence Ministry avoids specific details on its military support to Ukraine, but currently, €41 million of Soviet-era tanks, guided missiles and drones have been provided. The government has also sent 127 tonnes of food while civil society has raised over €140 million in humanitarian aid. Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala was also at the forefront of leaders’ visits to Kyiv, going there with the Polish and Slovenian Prime Ministers while Kyiv was still under direct daily attack.

While there is a clear consensus on Ukraine in Czechia’s five-party coalition government, the opposition ANO (Renew) has criticised them for focusing too much on Ukraine and neglecting the Czech people. The far-right SPD (ID) and the Czech Communist Party have tried the same line of attack.

“It is not that it is either Ukrainians or Czechs. We have to do both. We are helping people who are fleeing the war, but of course, we are doing a lot for Czech citizens,” Fiala said in response.

(Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)

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BRATISLAVA

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger visited Ukraine on 8 April after turning down an invitation to come in March alongside Poland, Czechia and Slovenia, citing “security reasons.” He later said that not going had been a mistake.

The Slovak government has provided Ukraine with the S-300 air defence system while negotiating the sale of one battery of self-propelled Slovak-made Zuzana Howitzers. According to the Slovak defence ministry, negotiations are already coming to a close.  

Regarding other military material, Slovakia has so far provided assistance worth more than €10 million. Specifically, ten million litres of diesel, 2.4 million litres of aviation petrol and 12,000 pieces of 120 mm ammunition.  

Moreover, the government approved a proposal on Wednesday to donate military equipment worth another €2 million. The Ministry of Defence stated that they want to have some of their expenses reimbursed at the European level and based on bilateral agreements. 

The Slovaks also manage the logistics centre in Haniska near Košice, which has been assisting in the transport of aid from EU Member States through Slovakia to Ukraine. So far, almost 600 tonnes of humanitarian material have passed through it. 

Bratislava has also provided Ukrainian regions with €5 million through cross-border cooperation frameworks, while Slovak citizens continue to collect donations to support Kyiv.

Politically, there is a clear consensus in the country’s four-party coalition about the need to provide both humanitarian and military help to Ukraine. 

However, the two biggest opposition parties and former prime ministers complain that the government is dragging Slovakia into the conflict by providing military help. 

Fringe far-right parties claim similar positions to the opposition heavyweights, calling members of government “lunatics” for providing military help to Ukraine.  

(Michal Hudec | EURACTIV.sk)

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BUDAPEST 

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has yet to visit Ukraine, nor has the country supported Ukraine with arms.

Speaking at the UN on Thursday (27 April), the Hungarian foreign minister said his country’s humanitarian aid to Ukraine has exceeded 1,000 tonnes. The country has also offered to treat injured soldiers of the Ukrainian army, pro-government daily Origo reported.

The government maintains that it intends to keep Hungary “out of the war”. It claims its two-thirds victory during the general elections of 3 April is evidence most Hungarians support its Ukraine policy. There has been no sign Fidesz is willing to soften its position of not providing Ukraine with military aid.

The six-party united opposition has previously supported providing military aid, but the issue has not been discussed much since the elections.

Meanwhile, the far-right “Our Homeland” party, the only other party to make it into the parliament besides Fidesz and the united opposition, has blasted any form of support to the government in Kyiv. 

Hungary’s treaty obligation as a member of NATO would only apply to “helping to defend a member state in the event of an attack, but Ukraine is not a NATO member,” party deputy chair Novák Előd said on 22 April. 

“Our Homeland is against military support for the chauvinistic Ukraine, which is pursuing a repressive policy against the Hungarian ethnic group in Transcarpathia, and against serving American interests”, he added. 

(Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com)


THE BALKANS

SOFIA

The official military aid figures from Sofia –  2,000 helmets and 2,000 items of body armour for Ukrainian civilians – belie the vast quantities of Bulgarian weapons flowing into Ukraine.

Bulgaria does not officially provide military assistance to Ukraine due to the intervention of the pro-Russian Bulgarian Socialist Party, which is part of the quadruple ruling coalition. There is also a strong pro-Russian public sentiment among the Bulgarian public.

Unofficially, however, Bulgaria is one of the largest weapons suppliers to Ukraine. 

The country’s sizeable arms industry produces weapons and ammunition according to Soviet standards, which are used by the Ukrainian army.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Bulgaria has signed new contracts worth over €1 billion, with the volume of arms exported from Bulgaria increasing three to four times. The weapons are exported primarily to Poland and then immediately imported to Ukraine. 

Bulgaria is sending large quantities of humanitarian aid, primarily through the Bulgarian Red Cross – as of 27 March, the Bulgarian Red Cross had sent some 220 tonnes of Bulgarian donations – clothes, blankets, bedding, shoes, medicines and hygiene materials. An additional 13,000 food packages have been sent.

Politically, there is an overwhelming majority in the Bulgarian parliament that supports sending military aid to Ukraine, including three of the four parties in the ruling coalition and two of the three opposition parties. 

However, this is not representative of society. Sixty-seven per cent of Bulgarians are in favour of neutrality in the conflict, while only 16% believe that Bulgaria should actively support Ukraine and provide weapons.

The far-right Vazrazhdane party is openly pro-Russian. Its leader, Kostadin Kostadinov, has been banned from entering Ukraine for 10 years on suspicion of being a Russian agent.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov visited Kyiv on 28 April. The delegation included representatives of all parties in the ruling coalition, except for those from the pro-Russian Bulgarian Socialist Party.

(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)

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BUCHAREST

The Romanian Prime Minister, Nicolae Ciuca, visited Kyiv on 26 April, putting him almost last in his immediate neighbourhood.

Similarly, the Romanian government has been silent about the arms it is supplying to Ukraine since a first public tranche in February. Immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, Bucharest provided €2 million worth of helmets and bulletproof vests. 

On 19 April, interfax reported that Romania was changing its constitution to be able to supply lethal weaponry to allies.

The government has not confirmed reports of Romanian T72 tanks or Soviet-era MiG21 planes having been supplied. The foreign minister said, “it is better not to talk too much publicly on these things” and cited the permanently evolving situation when asked by journalists.

On humanitarian aid, the Romanian authorities have been less tight-lipped. Alongside NGOs and private companies, the government has set up a hub of humanitarian assistance in Suceava. The hub, which has been operational since 9 March, has funnelled hundreds of trucks filled with humanitarian aid goods into Ukraine.

Given Romania’s tenuous relationship with the Kremlin, support for Ukraine has been near-unanimous, only marred by the ultra-nationalists from AUR trying to score political points by warning against attracting the wrath of Russia.

(Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)

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ZAGREB

The Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and government (EPP) have been supportive of Ukraine against Russia, as has the opposition in parliament. However, Croatian President Zoran Milanović (S&D) had made pro-Russian comments on multiple occasions and caused fear and confusion in Finland & Sweden when he made comments that threatened to scupper their NATO membership bid. The president’s remarks have become problematic enough for Plenković that he announced he would break off all contact with him.

So far, Croatia sent €16.5 million of weapons at the start of March and around €12 million in humanitarian aid with more specific information on the nature of Croatia’s help to Ukraine hard to come by. On 19 April, Plenkovic tweeted that more support would be forthcoming but skimped on any details.

(Chris Powers | EURACTIV.com)

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LJUBLJANA 

Few care more about the war on a country in their immediate neighbourhood than Slovenia. Prime Minister Janez Janša made sure the world knew just how much when he was among the first EU leaders to visit Kyiv on March 15, while the battle for the city raged on.

Financially, the country pledged €1 million at the international donor conference in April, on top of another €1 million previously donated to charities like the Red Cross and Caritas. 

The country is in talks to deliver Yugoslav-era tanks to Ukraine as part of a swap deal with Germany in exchange for newer armoured personnel carriers, but the talks are far from concluded. 

Yet, the country was quick to supply Ukraine with arms, sending Kalashnikovs, ammunition and helmets to Ukraine following the invasion in February aboard several aircraft.

Supporting Ukraine is helped by the unanimous political support for the besieged country, with the only pro-Russian party performing dismally during the parliamentary elections in April. The government has been at the vanguard of campaigning in the EU for Ukraine to be supplied with weapons, too.

Nonetheless, Janša has been defeated at the polls, putting the Freedom Movement in power, whose foreign policy advisor had previously decried the country’s pro-NATO and anti-Russian policies.

Similarly, the Left is anti-NATO, but its campaigning against defence spending cost it half of its MPs.

Aid for Ukraine has thus, in part, slowed down due to domestic elections and the subsequent careful coalition-building process that followed.

(Sebastijan R. Maček | sta.si)

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TIRANA

One of the poorest countries in Europe, Albania has not sent any aid to Ukraine. They have however, offered to take Ukrainian refugees, and there are around 400 in the country at the moment.

Aid has been provided in other forms through civil society organisations and drives for food and clothing organised by the Ukrainian embassy. There are no figures on exactly what has been donated and sent by members of the public and NGOs.

Albania has also pledged to assist with any NATO-led missions assisting Ukraine, and it has enacted EU sanctions against Russia.

When asked if he would be visiting Kyiv, Prime Minister Edi Rama said there were other people in the queue ahead of him.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the Albanian parliament next week.

All political parties are pro-Ukraine, and there is a strong anti-Russian sentiment in the country. While there are a handful of pro-Russian voices, these are on the fringes and do not enjoy political power or particular social influence.

(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)

 

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[Edited by Nikolaus J. Kurmayer, Alice Taylor, Alexandra Brzozowski, Sean Goulding Carroll, Chris Powers, Sarantis Michalopoulos]

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