France to double munitions supplies to Ukraine - defence minister

NATO defence ministers' meeting in Brussels
France's Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu attends a photo op during a NATO defence ministers' meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 15, 2023. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

PARIS, March 28 (Reuters) - France will double this month its supplies of 155 artillery rounds to Ukraine to about 2,000 shells a month, its defence minister said on Tuesday, adding that Paris was also planning to boost a fund that enables Kyiv to buy French weaponry.

Ukraine has identified the supply of 155 mm shells as a critical need as it engages in a fierce war of attrition with invading Russian forces. Both sides are firing thousands of artillery rounds every day.

"We are doubling the delivery of 155 mm shells to bring it to 2000 a month from the end of March," Sebastien Lecornu said in an interview published on Tuesday with Le Figaro newspaper.

Ukrainian and Western leaders have warned in recent weeks that Kyiv is burning through the shells more quickly than its allies can provide them, leading to a renewed push to send supplies and find ways to ramp up production.

France and Australia agreed in February a deal that would see Canberra provide gunpowder, which is not produced in France, to enable arms producer Nexter to manufacture 155mm shells. The faster deliveries will come from this, a French official said.

European Union countries on March 20 agreed a 2 billion euro plan to send 1 million artillery rounds to Ukraine over the next year by digging into their own stockpiles and teaming up to buy more shells.

Lecornu also said that the government was also discussing adding more money into a fund that enables Ukraine to buy French weaponry after the existing 200 million euros had been used. The official declined to say how much could be added.

France is also looking to provide with a new package of light AMX-10 RC armoured combat vehicles after completing the delivery of a first batch this month, two French officials said.

Paris has declined to say how many it has delivered.

Reporting by John Irish Editing by Peter Graff

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