The bloc promised to supply Ukraine with artillery rounds but never said they would be given away, EU Commissioner Thierry Breton has said FILE PHOTO: The EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton © Global Look Press / dpa / Johannes Neudecker

Ukraine should not expect the EU to supply it with 1 million artillery rounds “for free,” the bloc’s commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, told the broadcaster France Info on Monday. He also criticized President Vladimir Zelensky for “falsely” accusing the bloc of failing to deliver on its promises.

Last week, Zelensky complained that the EU would miss the target of 520,000 artillery shells that it was supposedly expected to supply to Kiev by March. “Of the million shells that the European Union promised us, not 50% came, but 30%, unfortunately,” he said.

Asked about the statement on Monday, Breton brushed Zelensky’s comment off as “false.” The figures cited by Zelensky do not correspond to reality, he said, adding that Kiev expected all the promised shells to be “donated,” but that had never been the case.

“I said: ‘provide’ and not ‘give away for free’,” Breton told France Info about the pledge made by Brussels last year. He said the bloc expected Ukraine to pay for at least a portion of the supplies.

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The plan developed by the EU envisaged three major avenues for Kiev to receive artillery rounds, the commissioner explained. The first did involve donations, and the EU has already provided Ukraine with 300,000 rounds free of charge, he said, adding that by March that figure was to grow to 550,000 rounds.

The second channel entailed the Ukrainian government buying ammunition directly from EU defense companies. Kiev has already purchased some 350,000 shells from manufacturers since the pledge was made, Breton said. Together with the EU donations, these purchases would bring the total number of shells the bloc will have supplied to Ukraine by the end March to some 900,000, the commissioner added.

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If it still wants more, Kiev can continue to buy “directly from our industries,” Breton said. He added that the EU has been providing the Ukrainian government with €1.5 billion ($1.63 billion) per month in financial aid, meaning it is capable of buying ammunition on its own.

The third part of the plan included bilateral donations by individual EU member states, which have not been made public, the official said. As a result of all of these avenues, the bloc is already well about the target, he added.

However, Breton’s comments appear to contradict earlier statements made by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who said in January that Brussels would fail to deliver on its promise to provide Ukraine with a million 155mm artillery shells by March, explaining that just over half the amount would be provided.

Kiev has repeatedly accused its Western backers of not providing it with enough military supplies. In late February, Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said that half of all the weapons and ammunition promised by the West have arrived late. (RT)