The Czech Republic has become the first NATO country to provide heavy weaponry to besieged Ukraine after the eastern European nation was invaded by Russian troops on February 24.
The Czechs have provided Ukraine’s military with Soviet-era T-72 tanks after the U.S. and other NATO countries had only given light weapons, anti-tank and anti-air weapons to Ukrainian troops.
Also, according to The Daily Mail, “several BVP-1 infantry fighting vehicles, howitzer artillery pieces and more than a dozen T-72 tanks were yesterday loaded on a train bound for Slovakia where they are expected to head on to Ukraine, footage run by public broadcaster Czech Television showed.”
The transfer was reportedly approved by NATO high command, though it does raise fears among some member nations that the security bloc could eventually be dragged into direct conflict with Russian forces.
The outlet noted further:
NATO leaders have so far given Ukraine anti-tank and anti-craft missiles as well as small arms and protective equipment, but have not offered any heavy armour or fighter jets. Prague’s decision to supply tanks to Kyiv will pile pressure on NATO allies to follow suit.
It comes as Russian artillery continued to pound the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Kharkiv today as the West prepared more sanctions against Moscow in response to civilian killings that Kyiv and its allies have called war crimes.
The delivery of heavy weapons comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy continues to beg the West for weapons and munitions — but not troops — in his fight to repel the Russian invaders.
In an address to the Czech Parliament on Wednesday, Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said, “I will only assure you that the Czech Republic is helping Ukraine as much as it can and will continue to help by [supplying] military equipment, both light and heavy.”
She did not provide lawmakers with any further details about the weapons transfer but it comes amid Zelenskyy’s ongoing pleas for tanks, fighter planes and other heavy military equipment. He also made similar demands during a video summit meeting with NATO members in Brussels March 24.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Ukraine is burning through in a single day the same amount of weaponry the country takes in during a week, quoting a senior Polish official. That has left Ukraine’s neighbors concerned they won’t be able to keep up with the demand for weapons while still maintaining enough for their own defense.
Reports noted that the Czech weapons delivery was funded in part by the government and partly by private donors who have put up funds via crowdsourcing campaigns in order to keep the arms flowing to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate has voted to resurrect the World War II-era “Lend-Lease” program, which enabled the U.S. to ship weapons to Britain and other allies before America was attacked by Japan and actually got into the war.
The Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022, S.3522, passed the Senate by voice vote late Wednesday, Fox News reported. The bill aims “to provide enhanced authority for the President to enter into agreements with the Government of Ukraine to lend or lease defense articles to that Government to protect civilian populations in Ukraine from Russian military invasion,” it says.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, noted on Twitter that he is “grateful to the U.S. Senate for passing the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act.” He called it an “important first step towards a lend-lease program to expedite the delivery of military equipment to Ukraine. Looking forward to its swift passage in the House and signing by the U.S. President.”
Grateful to the U.S. Senate for passing the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act. Important first step towards a lend-lease program to expedite the delivery of military equipment to Ukraine. Looking forward to its swift passage in the House and signing by the U.S. President.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) April 7, 2022