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Ukraine defense backers to convene 19 March amid artillery ammo crunch

The US-led “Ramstein” contact group of around 50 nations backing Ukraine’s defense will convene on March 19 to discuss fulfilling Kyiv’s military needs amid Ukraine’s artillery ammunition shortage.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, providing military aid to Ukraine in January 2024. Screenshot: DOD via ABC
Ukraine defense backers to convene 19 March amid artillery ammo crunch

The next meeting of the Contact Group on Ukraine’s Defense will take place on 19 March at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, the press service of the US Air Force in Europe told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service.

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group, comprising around 50 nations, was formed to provide military aid to Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion in February 2022. This US-led alliance coordinates weapons supplies at monthly meetings. The US has been Ukraine’s top financial supporter, but Pentagon funds were depleted by late 2023 as Congress delayed approving new aid. The group aims to sustain military assistance for Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression.

“US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin plans to hold an in-person meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on 19 March 2024. Austin has once again invited defense ministers and senior military officials from around the world to discuss the crisis in Ukraine and the various security challenges facing US allies and partners,” the statement said, according to RFE/RL (note: the text may differ from the original as it has been back-translated into English from Ukrainian).

The meeting occurs at a crucial time as Ukraine faces a shell shortage while US House Republicans have been blocking US aid for Ukraine for months. Kyiv needs consistent ammunition and advanced weapons resupply to sustain its defense against Russia’s continued offensives in the Donbas region and elsewhere.

On 27 February, an appeal was published, signed by nearly 500 intellectuals, including academics and former officials, from various countries, including the US, the UK Germany, and Australia, who have urged the Ramstein coalition to increase military aid to Ukraine, highlighting a significant ammunition shortage and criticizing the modest aid provided by some European countries.

The previous 19th meeting held online, took place on 14 February. It discussed the strengthening of Ukraine’s air defense, artillery systems, and drones, according to Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov.

What long-range weapons Ukraine can get in the wake of Ramstein-18 meeting

At the 18th Ramstein meeting via video conference on 23 January, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called for the allied nations to “dig deep” to supply Ukraine with anti-air interceptors and systems, while NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg pledged the Alliance’s support right away and in the long term.

One of the latest updates on the stalled US aid for Ukraine is the report that US House Speaker Mike Johnson is delaying the Ukraine aid package while ongoing discussions with House Republicans focus on a new bill that includes US-Mexico border restrictions, with potential floor action expected by late March or April.

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