The European Union plans to take the unprecedented step of funding weapons purchases for Ukraine, EU officials said on Feb. 27 as the bloc announced a raft of new sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The EU’s plan to fund weapons purchases will use millions of euros to help buy air-defense systems, anti-tank weapons, ammunition and other military equipment for Ukraine’s armed forces. It would also supply things like fuel, protective gear, helmets and first-aid kits.
“For the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said of the weapons purchases, calling it a “watershed moment.”
Von der Leyen expects the measure to be endorsed by EU leaders along with other significant moves — a ban on pro-Kremlin media outlets RT and Sputnik, the closure of EU airspace to Russian planes, and sanctions against Belarus.
She said RT and Sputnik are part of the “Kremlin’s media machine,” and the EU is “developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe,” von der Leyen said.
They will “no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union,” von der Leyen said.
The closure of the EU’s airspace comes after many individual European countries along with Britain and Canada announced they would ban Russian planes. The EU airspace ban will prohibit flights into or over the EU by “every Russian plane — and that includes the private jets of oligarchs,” von der Leyen said.
The EU also will hit Russian ally Belarus with sanctions for facilitating the invasion. The regime of Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka had been “complicit in the vicious attack against Ukraine,” von der Leyen said.
New restrictive measures will hit Belarus’s most important sectors, including tobacco, wood, cement, iron and steel.
The measures come on top of EU sanctions announced Feb. 26, including cutting some Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank messaging network, banning all transactions with Russia’s central bank, and added restrictions on Russian oligarchs.
The measures also follow Germany’s decision to commit 100 billion euros ($113 billion) to a special armed forces fund and to keep its defense spending above 2% of GDP from now on.
With reporting by AP, Reuters and AFP.