Just four out of 18 nations have contributed funds to an artillery initiative, the Czech defense minister says FILE PHOTO: A Ukrainian soldier at an artillery position. © Diego Herrera Carcedo / Anadolu via Getty Images

Just four out of 18 countries that vowed to buy more artillery munitions for Kiev have delivered on their commitments, according to the Czech Republic, which is in charge of the initiative.

Prague announced in February that it had found a way of sourcing 800,000 artillery shells from manufacturers outside the EU to support Ukraine’s military campaign against Russia. Other Western nations said they would cover the cost.

Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said on Tuesday that there had been financial and logistical challenges with the initiative. She told journalists: “Funds flow to us gradually; we cannot buy ammunition on debt.

“If some countries have signed a memorandum but have not yet sent funds, we cannot proceed with acquisitions,” she explained after meeting her EU counterparts in Brussels. “It is a bit of an appeal to those governments which have already signed memorandums to send the money.”

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Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Portugal were the only donors that had fulfilled their obligations, according to Cernochova. The first shipments of procured munitions to Ukraine will start in early June, she added.

In March, Czech leaders said they had secured financial commitments to cover the full cost of artillery shells. President Petr Pavel said at the time that deliveries were expected within weeks. But national security adviser Tomas Pojar said the country had enough money for only the first batch.

In mid-April, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the achieved level of funding was sufficient for 500,000 rounds.

Western media have estimated the full cost of the initiative at $1.5 billion. Czech officials floated the possibility of a follow-up purchase of an additional 700,000 rounds, with a total price tag of $3.3 billion for 1.5 million munitions.

The Czech proposal was intended to fill a void after EU-based weapons manufacturers failed to supply rounds fast enough to meet Kiev’s battlefield needs. Russia reportedly produces artillery shells at quarter the cost of European and American factories, and is expected to make 4.5 million of them this year, compared to 1.3 million produced by all Western nations combined. (RT)