France is on course to train 7,000 Ukrainians this year – some in Poland, others at French bases – as part of a European Union military assistance mission for Ukraine that launched a year ago this week.
The French army granted journalists access to a training base in rural France recently, to observe the latest class of Ukrainian infantrymen being put through its paces at the tail end of a four-week course.
The EU mission’s initial goal was to train 15,000 soldiers, but it has far exceeded that target and now expects to hit 35,000 by the end of this year. All but three of the EU’s 27 member countries, plus non-member Norway, have provided training courses or instructors, the EU Commission says.
The United States has trained about 18,000, mostly in Germany, with an additional 1,000 in the pipeline, the Pentagon says.
In Britain, 30,000 have learned soldiering in the past 17 months, a training program the UK government says is unprecedented since World War II.
As well as basic training with weapons, battlefield first aid and other skills, instructors are also imparting specialized military know-how, ranging from clearing mines and launching waterborne attacks aboard small boats to equipment repair, officer training and even help for Ukrainian military chaplains.
With their return to Ukraine just days away, the grimness of the future that awaits the trainees at the French base was perceptible in the men’s determined, unsmiling looks. Civilians not long ago, they now carried themselves like soldiers. They addressed each other with nicknames. There was liberal swearing as the men caught their breaths after storming trenches with fake grenades and blank rounds.
French instructors left animal remains in the complex of dugouts and ditches to harden the troops to battlefield bloodshed. Only the officers had previous front-line experience, the chief French training officer said.
He said Ukraine is looking to France for tactics and know-how that could help its forces bust through Russian defenses.
Germany will double its military aid for Ukraine
Germany’s Defence Minister announced on Sunday evening that his country had doubled the military aid initially planned for Ukraine in 2024 to €8 billion.
“This is a strong signal to Ukraine that we are not letting it down,” said Boris Pistorius on ARD public television, when asked about reports in the German press on Sunday that the budget had been doubled.
“This is an important signal at a time when Ukraine must continue its fight, while international attention is focused on Israel and Gaza”, added the minister.
The increase in military aid is also in response to “the experience we have had this year, which has shown that the amounts earmarked were quickly used up”, he added.
The German government had initially earmarked €4 billion in aid, mainly for military equipment.
But the parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government have just agreed to double this amount. The decision is due to be formalised in a committee vote in the Chamber of Deputies next Thursday.
Since the start of the Russian invasion, Germany has been one of the main contributors to support for Kyiv, having provided some €22 billion to Ukraine in the form of humanitarian, financial and military aid.
In particular, Berlin has sent Kyiv tanks, armoured vehicles, munitions and anti-aircraft defence systems.
However, Germany is reluctant to deliver the long-range Taurus missiles that Kyiv is insisting on, for fear that they could be used to target Russian territory.
The German announcement comes at a time when the Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russian forces appears to be stalling, with the front line largely frozen.
The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, Valery Zaloujny, in a recent interview with The Economist, said that the two armies were trapped in a war of attrition and positions and spoke of a “stalemate”.
Ukraine must prepare for Russian strikes on infrastructure
Ukraine must prepare for Russian strikes on its infrastructure this winter, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned on Sunday, referring to a possible increase in attacks.
“We must be prepared for the possibility that the enemy will increase the number of drone or missile strikes on our infrastructure,” Zelenskyy said in his daily address.
“All our attention must be focused on defence (…) on everything Ukraine can do to help our people get through the winter”, he added.
Last year, the Russian army’s systematic bombardment of Ukraine’s energy network left thousands of people without heating or electricity for long periods in freezing temperatures.
Kyiv said it was strengthening its defences to protect key infrastructure.
“The Ukrainian air shield is already stronger than it was last year”, Zelenskyy.
Ukraine has received major air defence systems from its Western allies, including US-made Patriots.
“Unfortunately, (the air shield) does not yet fully protect the entire territory. We are working to improve it further”, added the Ukrainian president, calling on the international community to echo his call.
Source : Euronews