British defence company BAE Systems says it set up a local entity in Ukraine and signed deals with the government to help ramp up Kyiv’s supply of weapons and equipment.
The move on Thursday will enable BAE to work directly with Kyiv officials to explore potential partners for a plan to ultimately produce 105mm light guns, a kind of artillery weapon, in Ukraine and to better understand its capability requirements.
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As the United Kingdom’s biggest defence contractor, BAE has manufactured much of the equipment that Britain and other governments have provided to Ukraine as it fends off Russia’s invasion.
Britain is a key defence supplier for Ukraine and in May became the first country to start supplying Kyiv with long-range cruise missiles.
“The best weapons that are currently helping our warriors defend Ukraine should be produced in Ukraine,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on X, formerly Twitter, following a meeting with BAE Chief Executive Charles Woodburn.
“The development of our own weapons production is a top priority.”
The Kremlin on Friday said it saw BAE opening a local entity in Ukraine “negatively”, and any facilities producing weapons used against Russia would become targets.
Today we’ve announced a new local legal entity and signed agreements with the Ukrainian Government to ramp up our support to Ukraine’s armed forces and to explore the supply of light guns to Ukraine.
— BAE Systems (@BAESystemsplc) August 31, 2023
Zelenskyy had said in May the two sides were working on opening a BAE office in Ukraine. Kyiv is eager to boost its arsenal from drones and munitions to tanks, while also trying to boost job opportunities in an economy ravaged by war.
BAE, which has benefitted from increased defence spending as a result of the conflict, is already providing training and repair services to Ukraine’s armed forces.
“Signing the agreements and establishing a legal entity in Ukraine builds on our existing trust and support and paves the way for us to work together to provide more direct support to the Ukrainian armed forces,” BAE’s Woodburn said in a statement.
The announcement comes days after Ukraine signed a statement of intent with Sweden to strengthen cooperation in the production and operation of the CV90 family of armoured vehicles, made by a Swedish unit of BAE.
Western defence companies have been weighing opportunities to make weapons in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has asked the European Union for more arms and ammunition.
Speaking at a meeting with EU foreign ministers in the Spanish city of Toledo, Kuleba mentioned artillery ammunition, armoured vehicles and tanks, and again urged Germany to supply his country with Taurus cruise missiles.
Kuleba also called for an intensified fight against the circumvention of sanctions in a bid to make it more difficult for Russia to produce missiles and drones.