Rheinmetall, Germany’s largest automotive and arms manufacturer, will open a new armored vehicle factory in Ukraine within the next 12 weeks, the CEO and chairman of the executive board, Armin Papperger, told CNN n an exclusive interview.
The new factory will produce and repair German Fuchs armored personnel carriers for Ukraine’s Armed Forces and provide training and maintenance services, according to Armin Papperger. The factory on Ukrainian soil is part of Rheinmetall’s strategy to expand its presence in Eastern Europe and support Ukraine’s efforts to modernize its military capabilities, Papperger said.
“Ukrainians have to help themselves. If they always have to wait for Europeans or Americans to help them over the next ten or twenty years… that is not possible,” Papperger said.
Rheinmetall will operate the plant in partnership with Ukroboronprom, a Ukrainian state-owned defense group that will also own the facility, according to CNN. The companies agreed to create a German-Ukrainian joint venture in May to boost Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.
The Kremlin has repeatedly warned foreign countries not to supply weapons or military equipment to Ukraine, saying it would consider such actions a threat to Russia’s national security. Former President of Russia and current deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, claimed before that Russia would retaliate by hitting any Rheinmetall facility that would set up weapons production in Ukraine.
However, the CEO of Rheinmetall, Armin Papperger, said he is not afraid of Russian retaliation and assured that the company has already taken all necessary measures to protect its assets and personnel in Ukraine.
“There are a lot of factories at the moment which are producing military goods [in Ukraine]. It is just another one. And we can protect that also,” Papperger said.
Papperger told CNN that ammunition production is currently the highest priority for Ukraine and a more important task than building tanks. Rheinmetall is ready to help Ukraine to deal with this challenge and plans to ramp up its annual production of artillery rounds from 100,000 to 600,000 next year, and “much of that extra output would be earmarked for delivery to Ukraine,” Papperger said. Rheinmetall could provide 60% of the artillery ammunition Ukraine needs, according to Papperger.
“It’s a game changer,” Papperger concluded, commenting on Rheinmetall’s plans to open the company’s first factory in Ukraine.
The opening of Rheinmetall’s factory in Ukraine is expected to create hundreds of jobs and boost Ukraine’s economy and defensive capabilities. It is also seen as a sign of confidence and solidarity from one of Europe’s leading defense manufacturers amid the Russian unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine.
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