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Ukraine to Boost Domestic Defense Industry in Cooperation With Western Partners

Ukraine has signed contracts for joint cooperation on technology weapons production with Western partners in its effort to boost its defense industry at home and to reduce its dependence on military supplies from the West.

“We have dozens of new contracts between companies on joint production or technology exchange,” Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said in a Facebook post.

The drive to increase production at home has become critically important as the future of large-scale military aid from the United States and European Union appears more uncertain and Western stockpiles have become more depleted.

Kyiv has hosted a number of conferences with members of the international defense industry. This week it held a conference with the largest British defense manufacturers, while last September it hosted more than 250 Western weapons producers, followed by a joint Ukraine-U.S. defense conference in Washington in December.

“We signed a memorandum with the United States on joint production and technical data sharing,” Umerov said.

Ukraine is also seeking more agreements like its venture with German arms producer Rheinmetall AG to service and repair Western weapons, and an agreement with two American firms to jointly manufacture vital 155 mm artillery shells.

Domestic defense output has tripled in 2023, according to the strategic industries ministry, and is expected to increase six times more in 2024.

Hungary on Friday blocked a European Union financial aid package for Ukraine, while the EU on Thursday agreed to begin membership talks with the beleaguered country.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban used his veto to block the aid package, but European Council President Charles Michel said 26 of the EU’s 27 countries have agreed on the $54 billion financial aid package for Ukraine that it urgently needs to beat back the Russian invasion.

Michel said Sweden must consult with its parliament about the aid package, but that move is standard procedure for Sweden.

Michel said the EU “will try to get unanimity” on the budget for Ukraine early next year.

Despite the roadblocks that Hungary’s leader has thrown into the negotiations with Ukraine, Michel said, “This is a historic moment, a historic European Council.”

Orban had said for weeks that he was opposed to Ukraine joining the EU and would veto the move.

In the end he did not use his veto for Ukraine’s EU membership. Instead, he was reported to have left the room when the accession vote was taken in Brussels, leaving the other 26 members of the bloc to make a unanimous decision.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said Orban failed to use his veto because “he realized that it would be indefensible.”

The EU membership negotiations are “a victory for Ukraine,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said after the announcement. “A victory for all of Europe.”

Russia reacted against the EU’s decision to open membership talks for Ukraine and Moldova, calling the move a politicized decision that would destabilize the bloc, and praised Hungary for its objections to the talks.

“The EU has always had strict criteria for accession, and it is obvious that at the moment neither Ukraine nor Moldova meets these criteria,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“Such new members could destabilize the EU,” said Peskov “and since we live on the same continent as the EU, we, of course, are closely watching this.”

Zelenskyy’s EU victory comes after his recent trip to Washington where he failed to convince U.S. lawmakers to release additional funds for Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

The U.S. has already given Ukraine more than $100 billion, but Republican lawmakers want any new funds for Ukraine tied to changes on securing the U.S. border with Mexico.

However, Zelenskyy said in his daily address that Nordic countries have promised aid packages worth more than $1.4 billion.

Russian anti-aircraft units destroyed 26 Ukrainian drones over the Crimean Peninsula on Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Telegram.

A ministry statement said the interceptions took place between 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. (1730-1930 GMT).

Separately, Russian anti-aircraft units downed at least 15 aerial targets near the town of Henichesk, the Russia-installed governor of part of the southern Kherson region held by Moscow, Vladimir Saldo, reported on Telegram.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in either instance.

In western Ukraine, a village council member detonated three hand grenades during a meeting Friday, critically injuring himself and at least two dozen other people, authorities said.

A video posted on social media showed a man entering a room where the village council of Keretsky was meeting to discuss and approve the community’s budget.

The man, who was preliminarily identified as Serhii Batryn, a council member who belongs to Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party, took three grenades from his pockets, removed the pins and threw the weapons on the floor in front of him.

Transcarpathian region police said in an official statement that 26 people were injured, six of them critically. The man who set off the grenades suffered grave injuries and medics worked to save his life, police said.

It is not yet clear what was a possible motive or if the attack was connected to the war in Ukraine.

Source: VOA