France, Australia to supply Ukraine with artillery shells

January 30, 2023 GMT
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French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, second right, French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu, right, attend a joint press conference with Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles, second left, and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
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French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, second right, French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu, right, attend a joint press conference with Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles, second left, and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS (AP) — France and Australia announced Monday plans to jointly produce and send several thousand 155-millimeter artillery shells to Ukraine, starting in the coming weeks.

The multimillion-dollar plan is the latest offer of support for Ukraine by both countries, and comes amid growing appeals from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for heavy weaponry and long-term supplies from Western allies nearly a year into Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The joint announcement, made by Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles and French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu, also appeared aimed at sending a signal that the two countries have overcome a damaging dispute over submarines.

Australia secretly jettisoned a $60 billion contract for conventional French submarines in 2021 in favor of a deal for nuclear-powered submarines made by the U.S. and Britain instead, deeply harming French-Australian relations.

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The production of artillery shells for Ukraine will be led by French manufacturer Nexter in cooperation with Australian manufacturers, the defense ministers said. They did not provide further details, citing national security.

“I’m pleased to announce that Australia and France are working together to supply 155-millimeter ammunition to Ukraine, to make sure Ukraine is able to stay in this conflict and see it concluded on its own terms,” Marles said.

Lecornu said they aim to send the first shells in the first quarter of this year, and that the project is meant to secure a steady supply of shells to Ukraine over time.

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Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine