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Ukraine signs $1B military assistance deal with Belgium

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (R) shake hands Tuesday after signing a multi-billion-dollar long-term bilateral defense agreement, the latest in a string of security accords with Western allies. Photo by Olivier Matthys/EPA-EFE
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (R) shake hands Tuesday after signing a multi-billion-dollar long-term bilateral defense agreement, the latest in a string of security accords with Western allies. Photo by Olivier Matthys/EPA-EFE

May 28 (UPI) -- Belgium inked a 10-year bilateral defense deal Tuesday to provide Ukraine $1 billion in military assistance in 2024 and 30 U.S.-made F-16 fighter aircraft over the next four years with the first jets shipping in coming months.

The agreement "guarantees Belgium's timely security assistance, modern armored vehicles and equipment to meet Ukraine's air force and air defense needs, naval security, mine clearance, participation in the artillery ammunition coalition, and military training," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a post on X.

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The deal also provides for defense industrial cooperation, support for Ukraine's Peace Formula, strengthening of sanctions against Russia, compensating damages, bringing Russia to justice, use of frozen Russian assets and economic reconstruction.

"Ukraine and Belgium will also deepen their cooperation in intelligence, cyber security, and countering disinformation. Belgium also expresses support for Ukraine's future EU and NATO membership," Zelensky said.

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"I thank Prime Minister De Croo, his government and all Belgians for their unwavering and long-lasting support for Ukraine."

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the security cooperation agreement would help provide Ukraine with the right tools to protect its citizens over the long term.

"We are very determined when it comes to our support. So we need to do more, better and faster," De Croo wrote in a post on X.

Zelensky arrived in Brussels fresh from a visit to Madrid where on Monday he secured another $1 billion commitment from the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez "to provide Ukraine with the capability "to prioritize its capacities, including its air defenses".

Welcoming Zelensky, Sanchez told him his visit provided Spain the opportunity to demonstrate "our firmest commitment to Ukraine" in all areas from defense and security to peace and reconstruction.

"These are our priorities, which will guide our joint efforts. Ukraine can count on Spain in its fight for peace and in the defense of all the values ​​and principles that unite us," Sanchez said in a post on X.

He added that Spain had already committed to supplying Patriot air defense missiles [missiles only and not the whole system] and said it would also send more Leopard tanks "and above all ammunition".

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The deal is over 10 years and is for $1 billion of military aid in 2024.

The deals are the latest among a line of European nations including Britain, France and Germany to sign bilateral security pacts with Kyiv in the absence of a European Union-wide approach which is being blocked by Hungary.

A new $5.4 billion Ukraine Assistance Fund package agreed in March is reportedly being obstructed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The UAF is being paid for through the $18.5 billion European Peace Facility, a military and assistance funding mechanism created by the bloc in March 2021 charged with preventing conflicts and strengthening defense.

EU member states have given Ukraine around $30 billion in military support since Russia's full-scale invasion in Feb. 2022, with around $6.6 billion of the funds coming via the EPF.

Zelensky has also been using his European visit to lobby for more countries to attend an upcoming peace summit in Switzerland that Bern agreed to host back in January.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Sanchez on Monday Zelensky said 90 countries had now committed to participate and that he was working to get more world leaders, including the United States and China, on board.

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"I am appealing to the leaders of the world who are still aside from the global efforts of the Global Peace Summit -- to President Biden, the leader of the United States, and to President Xi, the leader of China -- please, show your leadership in advancing peace," he said in a post on X.

"Real peace, not just a pause between the strikes.The efforts of the global majority are the best guarantee that all commitments will be fulfilled. Please support the Peace Summit with your personal leadership and participation."

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