UK and Latvia lead coalition to provide thousands of drones to Ukraine

A Ukrainian serviceman of the 68 Oleksa Dovbush hunting brigade, launches a drone at the frontline near Vuhledar, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023.
A Ukrainian serviceman of the 68 Oleksa Dovbush hunting brigade, launches a drone at the frontline near Vuhledar, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. Copyright Evgeniy Maloletka/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved
By Mared Gwyn JonesEuronews
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Latvia's defence minister Andris Sprūds said the coalition would set a goal of delivering a million drones to Ukraine.

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The UK and Latvia are spearheading a "capability coalition" to provide Ukraine with up to a million battlefield drones to bolster its war efforts.

In a statement released Thursday, the UK government said the coalition would "scale up and streamline" the supply of drones, including first-person view (FPV) drones – the cheap airborne weapons that have become a vital tool in Ukraine's efforts to push back Russia's invasion.

The scale-up of drone supply will provide Ukrainian forces with better situational awareness to target "enemy positions, armoured vehicles, and ships with explosive ordnance," the statement said.

Eight states, including Germany and the Netherlands, are expected to join the coalition, according to Latvian media. 

The coalition was launched at a meeting of NATO defence ministers at the military alliance's Brussels headquarters.

"On land and at sea we’ve seen the impact drones are having in Ukraine," the UK's defence minister Grant Schapps said on social media platform X.

"That’s why, as the largest supplier of drones to Ukraine, the UK will lead an international coalition to get thousands more onto the battlefield," Schapps added.

Lativan defence minister said the coalition would "work towards the goal of delivering one million drones to Ukraine."

At a press conference in December, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced an ambitious plans to produce 1 million drones in 2024.

Digital minister Mykhailo Fedorov, a champion of the wartime drone industry, also assured last week Ukraine was quickly scaling up production of long-range drones capable of reaching Moscow and St Petersburg.

As Russia's war in Ukraine enters its third year, the drone industry is considered pivotal in Kyiv's counter-offensive.

Military tech startups have thrived on the production of cheap aerial drones that have proved effective on the frontline.

A Ukrainian soldier launches a drone in the area of the heaviest battles with the Russian invaders in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 15, 2023.
A Ukrainian soldier launches a drone in the area of the heaviest battles with the Russian invaders in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 15, 2023.Roman Chop/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Russia is said to have also boosted drone production in a bid to compete with Ukrainian forces on the battlefield.

The UK and Latvia-led initiative was announced as NATO ministers gathered to review their progress in propping up Ukraine's war efforts, scale up defence production capacity and prepare for the upcoming NATO summit in Washington in July.

Also at the ministerial meeting, 13 NATO allies – among them France, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey – are expected to sign an agreement on procuring new munitions and missiles.

Sweden, whose NATO accession is awaiting ratification by the Hungarian parliament, is also expected to sign.

While EU countries have committed to providing Ukraine with the military prowess it needs to win the war, governments have struggled to ensure the defence industry can meet demands without depleting European stockpiles.

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