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France to send more mobile artillery to Ukraine

France will send 12 Caesar-mounted howitzers and new air defense equipment to Ukraine to strengthen its fight against Russian invaders, French Defense Minister Sebastien Le Cornou said on Tuesday.

Lecornu told a Paris news conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Oleksiy Reznikov that the cannons, together with the 18 already delivered, will be part of a 200 million-euro project established by France to supply Kiev with arms. ($217 million) funding.

The move comes as France has yet to commit to sending Leclerc main battle tanks to Ukraine, after spending weeks pressuring Berlin to supply the Leopard 2 and allow the ally to re-export the German-made tanks.

Along with other Western mobile artillery such as the German Panzerhaubitze 2000, the Kaiser cannon was also credited last year for helping Ukraine hit targets deep behind Russian lines, undercutting Moscow’s offensive.

The truck-mounted 155mm gun can fire highly accurate salvos at ranges of up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) and shift positions before the enemy can locate them and return fire.

The new batch of howitzers, initially ordered by Copenhagen, will be delivered “in the next few weeks,” Le Cornu said.

Denmark has also pledged to use its entire fleet of 19 French-made howitzers in the Ukrainian war.

“We’ve now reached a (Caesar cannon) mass that cannot be ignored,” Lecornu said.

– Air defense –

Paris will also provide Kiev with the Ground Master 200 radar, which is capable of detecting enemy aircraft at a distance of up to 250 kilometers, including low-flying drones.

The radar can also detect incoming rocket or artillery fire and warn friendly forces.

France is also working “with our allies” to supply more missiles for its Crotale surface-to-air defense system, Lecornu said.

About 15 countries operate Crotale, including Greece, Finland and South Korea.

“Crotales destroyed 100 percent of their targets, so it is very important to close the skies over Ukraine,” Reznikov said.

Finally, Le Cornou said that 150 French soldiers would be sent to Poland to train Ukrainian soldiers.

Reznikov said he had not asked France for fighter jets, such as the widely exported Mirage series.

But he added that “tactical aviation is an integral part of our air defense” and “we need to strengthen our capabilities”.

As of early December, France was Ukraine’s seventh-biggest backer since the start of the war, according to military and financial aid data collated by German think tank the Institute for World Economic Studies.

The ranking does not take into account major military equipment announced by Kiev last month, including the AMX-10 RC light tank, and Germany’s promised Leopard 2.

But European donors still fall well short of U.S. military aid pledges.

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