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EU defense ministers to discuss EU training mission for Ukraine’s army

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Czech government hosts EU defense, foreign ministers to assess bloc’s response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, now in its 7th month

EU defense ministers gathered on Monday in the Czech capital Prague for an informal meeting, with an agenda mostly devoted to the war in Ukraine, now in its seventh month.

The Czech government, which assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union in July, is hosting EU defense and foreign ministers for a two-day event to discuss the most important topics in foreign and security policy.

On Tuesday, the defense ministers will assess the bloc’s military support for Ukraine, including EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s latest proposal for a military training mission.

Since the meeting is informal, the ministers cannot take legally binding decisions, but their discussions may lay the groundwork for political compromise on an EU mission to Ukraine.

In an interview with Austrian broadcaster ORF on Sunday, Borrell explained that the original idea of an EU military training mission came from Poland and the Baltic states months before the Russian invasion started on Feb. 24.

In January, several EU members – including Germany, Greece and Italy – rejected the plan, arguing that it would further escalate tensions with Russia.

“We had been evaluating how it can work, and I think the time has come to take a decision,” he underlined, adding that several EU member states are providing weapons for Ukraine and it is better to teach the army how to use them in a “coordinated manner.”

He asserted that the EU even has a training mission for the “Madagascar army, which is quite far away and is not exactly in the same difficult situation as the Ukrainians.”

The Czech EU presidency’s event will continue on Wednesday with an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers.

The top diplomats are expected to discuss a proposal from Estonia, Latvia, and Finland to impose an EU-wide ban on tourist visas for Russians.

Since the beginning of Russia’s war on Ukraine, the bloc has provided a total of €2.5 billion ($2.5 billion) in military aid, including lethal weapons, as well as personal protective gear, first aid kits, and fuel.

It has also imposed seven sanctions packages, targeting, among others, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, banning gold, oil, and coal imports, and the export of luxury goods, as well as excluding Russian and Belarusian banks from the SWIFT international payment system.

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