Poland has become the latest country to send arms to help Ukraine fend off a potential full-scale Russian invasion as Kyiv also said it planned a big increase in the size of its armed forces.
Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, announced the shipments to Ukraine during a visit to Kyiv on Tuesday. “We are ready to give Ukraine tens of thousands in artillery and ammunitions rounds, but also surface-to-air weapons of the Grom class and light mortar systems, as well as drones,” Morawiecki said.
“Our part of Europe does not suffer from earthquakes and volcano explosions, but despite this, living close to a neighbour like Russia, we have the feeling that we live near a volcano,” he added.
His announcement came as part of a display of solidarity for Kyiv by European allies, as an estimated 100,000 Russian forces have massed near the frontier with Ukraine.
Morawiecki spoke during a briefing with Denys Shmyhal, his Ukrainian counterpart, and before the arrival later on Tuesday of Boris Johnson and Mark Rutte, the prime ministers of the UK and the Netherlands.
Shmyhal said his country hoped “to be able to officially start a new format of regional co-operation between Ukraine, Poland and Great Britain under the conditions of continuing Russian aggression”.
“We need to sign a three-party document on co-operation and strengthening regional security,” he said without providing further details.
The Polish arms shipment comes after the UK last month provided Ukraine with thousands of NLAW anti-tank busters and other equipment. The US last year provided a record $650mn in military assistance to Ukraine, on top of $2.7bn it has supplied since the war in Ukraine’s east erupted in 2014.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky also said on Tuesday that the country would add 100,000 professional troops to the country’s 261,000-strong armed forces, and boost army salaries in order to deter further Russian aggression. The increase in troop numbers is planned over three years.
Zelensky signed the relevant presidential decree on Tuesday, telling parliament he was doing so “not because war is coming, but so that there will be peace”.
“[The] decree has been developed to strengthen the state’s defence capabilities and the attractiveness of military service. This decree provides for an increase in the financial security of all military personnel to a level not lower than three minimum wages,” Zelensky added.
Ukraine’s minimum wage equates to roughly $300 per month.
The US and Ukraine’s other western backers fear Russia’s troop build-up could be preparation for a Russian invasion or deeper incursions on top of Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and fomenting of a proxy separatist war in eastern regions.
Zelensky told parliament that the country’s economy was “stabilising”, with budget revenues exceeding expectations.
EU officials have approved a fresh €1.2bn finance package for Ukraine. Kyiv is also seeking multibillion-dollar US-guaranteed bond issues.
Zelensky added that international peace talks were gaining momentum and called for national unity.