Sweden announces $1.23bn military aid for Ukraine as Blinken visits Moldova

Stockholm makes pledge as Washington and Brussels push to raise support in the third year of Russia-Ukraine war.

Sweden's Minister for Energy Ebba Busch
Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Ebba Busch says the military aid package 'consists of equipment that is at the top of Ukraine's priority list' [File: Claudio Bresciani /TT News Agency via Reuters]

The Swedish government says it will donate 13 billion kronor ($1.23bn) in military assistance to Ukraine as Kyiv struggles with multiple delays of vital Western military aid in the third year of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Ebba Busch said on Wednesday that the assistance package “consists of equipment that is at the top of Ukraine’s priority list” like air defence, artillery ammunition and armoured vehicles.

Defence Minister Pal Jonsson reiterated that Sweden for now has ruled out sending any Swedish-built JAS 39 Gripen jets to Ukraine, saying the focus on the Ukrainian side is on implementing an F-16 fighter jet programme.

The donation also includes two Swedish-made SAAB ASCC airborne early warning and control planes, which Jonsson said would have the “greatest effect on the Ukrainian air defence” because it would complement and reinforce the promised donations of American F-16s.

EU push

On Tuesday, European Union defence ministers met in Brussels to try again to raise military support for Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has already secured several pledges during his two-day tour of Spain, Belgium and Portugal this week.

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said her country would equip Ukraine with 30 F-16 fighter jets and the first deliveries are planned for this year.

Zelenskyy signed a similar deal with Spain, securing a pledge for additional air defence missiles.

Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren announced on Tuesday that the Netherlands would deliver parts for a Patriot air defence system to Ukraine.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala confirmed that the first deliveries of a Czech-led initiative to provide ammunition to Kyiv, which sources supplies from outside the EU, would reach Ukraine in June.

However, an estimated 6.5 billion euros ($7bn) in EU military aid remains stalled by the Hungarian government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, considered Russia’s staunchest ally in the EU.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, the first stop on a brief Europe tour aimed at solidifying Western support for Ukraine among NATO allies and neighbouring countries.

Blinken will meet pro-European President Maia Sandu and other senior officials at a time when US officials say the former Soviet republic of 2.5 million people, which has a long border with Ukraine, faces Russian “influence operations”.

Source: News Agencies