EU forces under pressure from Berlin to Ukraine

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EU forces under pressure from Berlin to Ukraine

Germany s chancellor Olaf Scholz is under pressure from Brussels to drop his objection to an EU military training mission in Ukraine, as Berlin faces heavy criticism at home and abroad over its approach to Russia.

According to diplomatic sources, Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, raised the issue of the mission at a meeting of ministers from the 27 member states on Monday and asked opponents of the plan to reconsider.

The EU's foreign affairs wing, the external action service, is expected to make further efforts in the coming weeks to convince Berlin to give the green light. According to EU sources, Italy, Spain, Austria and Greece are among those who oppose the proposal.

In Mali and Somalia, such EU training missions have been established to build up armies. Germany favors establishing a European peace facility a financing programme that could help in reform of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which the government in Berlin believes would be better suited to EU goals.

A communique issued after a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday said only that the bloc was defining the modalities of support to Ukraine in the area of military education. A spokesman for Borrell declined to comment on the confidential discussions. He said that discussions between the member states continue on the issue of a possible EU training mission to Ukraine. We are intensifying the work in this regard. We hope that the decision, which is for the member states to take in unanimity, will be taken soon. We will accelerate the preparatory work to deploy such a mission if member states agree on that.

We need to move forward quickly because of the changing developments. The message was clearly conveyed by the high representative for foreign affairs to the foreign ministers on Monday. Scholz has faced criticism over his relatively cautious approach to the crisis, despite the fact that the US and the EU have stressed their unified position on the threat posed to peace from the 106,000 Russian troops on Ukraine's eastern border.

One diplomatic source in Brussels hasn't said anything from him. The political signalling is weak. The German government sstance on the EU training mission has been referenced by some in Brussels as evidence of Berlin's fear of provoking the Kremlin.

There is growing criticism of a delay in German approval on arms exports to Ukraine. The German government is required to approve the arms after being stationed in the former German Democratic Republic, in east Germany.

Poland's prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said on Tuesday that it was a huge disappointment that Berlin had been withholding permission.

Germany's defence minister Christine Lambrecht provoked an angry response in Kyiv after she announced on Wednesday that her country would supply 5,000 military helmets to Ukraine.

Earlier this week, Ukraine's ambassador in Berlin had urged the German government to equip militia fighters with 100,000 helmets and protective vests. Lambrecht said that the delivery of helmets sent a very clear signal: We are on your side But Kyiv s mayor Vitali Klitschko, a former world heavyweight boxing champion who previously lived in Germany, called the delivery of 5,000 helmets a joke. The behaviour of the German government leaves me speechless. The defence ministry apparently hasn't realized that we are confronted with perfectly equipped Russian forces that can start another invasion of Ukraine at any time, he told Germany's largest tabloid, Bild. On Wednesday, officials from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France held diplomatic negotiations in the so-called Normandy format born out of the hostilities in 2015, a year after Vladimir Putin ordered the annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said Moscow expected a good frank discussion at the Paris meeting.