PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic has delivered tanks, several rocket launchers, howitzers and infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine among military shipments that have reached hundreds of millions of dollars and will continue, officials said two Czech defense sources.
Ukraine has repeatedly called on the West to urgently provide more weapons, especially heavy equipment, as Russian forces regroup in the east of the country for a new offensive after pulling out of the capital kyiv and other regions.
NATO members supply a wide range of weapon systems to the country, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.
The Czech Republic – a former Soviet satellite part of then-Czechoslovakia – has spare equipment Ukrainian forces know well in storage as well as a defense industry focused on upgrades and trade in these weapons. It has been one of the EU countries most active in supporting Ukraine.
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Defense sources confirmed to Reuters a shipment of five T-72 tanks and five BVP-1, or BMP-1, infantry fighting vehicles seen on wagons in photographs on Twitter and video footage this week, but these were not the first shipments of heavy equipment.
“For several weeks we have been supplying heavy ground equipment – I say this generally but by definition it is clear that this includes tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, howitzers and multiple rocket launchers,” he said. said a senior defense official.
“What left the Czech Republic is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The sources declined to discuss the number of weapons provided.
The senior defense official said the Czechs were also supplying a range of anti-aircraft weapons.
Independent defense analyst Lukas Visingr says Strela-10 short-range air defense systems, or SA-13 Gophers in NATO terminology, were spotted on a train apparently bound for Ukraine , according to a report by the Czech weekly respekt.cz.
The Defense Ministry declined to comment on concrete military assistance. Reuters has asked the Ukrainian government for comment although it normally refuses to give information on arms deliveries.
An agreed shipment made public by the German government includes 56 Czechoslovakian-made infantry fighting vehicles that were once operated by East Germany and Sweden.
They were then sold to the Czech arms company EXCALIBUR ARMY, which is part of the industrial and defense holding company CZECOSLOVAK GROUP, which plays a key role in Czech supplies to Ukraine.
The company declined to comment on specific shipments. He said his supplies since the start of the war included heavy equipment.
The Czech arms shipment program includes funds raised through public fundraising efforts by the Ukrainian Embassy, which raised $42.31 million on Friday, the embassy said.
He said the effort was unique among Ukrainian embassy aid campaigns in its sole focus on procuring weapons in cooperation with local authorities, and that $31.18 million was used. He declined to comment on the weapons purchased.
Funding also comes in the form of donations from the Czech government of army equipment and ammunition – worth more than $44.51 million so far, according to the Ministry of Defense – and from Ukrainian and other governments. , the defense official said without giving further details.
The supply of light and heavy weapons is done from army stocks and through Czech defense companies and their network of contacts in other countries, the sources said.
Visingr said the Czech army had perhaps around 60 tanks and a three-digit number of combat vehicles and that the CZECHOSLOVAK GROUP had even more pieces of heavy equipment in stock that could potentially be supplied. to Ukraine.
The fact that much of the equipment has not been upgraded is a plus for Ukraine due to time constraints, he said.
“It’s an advantage, not a shortcoming. These are things that Ukrainians know perfectly well.”
The Czech Republic is also in talks with Ukraine about the repair of damaged Ukrainian equipment.
The defense source said it could be equipment stored in Ukraine that needed repairs or equipment damaged in the fighting. Czech repair companies have been consulted about their possibilities, the source said.
($1 = 22.4530 Czech crowns)
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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