Kyiv in talks with Western arms makers to set up production of weapons in Ukraine

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Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year Ukraine has been scrambling to secure weapons ranging from munitions to rocket launchers to missiles.

Ukraine is in negotiations with Western arms manufacturers to boost production of weapons, including drones, and could sign contracts in coming months, a Ukrainian minister told Reuters.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year Ukraine has been scrambling to secure weapons ranging from munitions to rocket launchers to missiles. It has received support from countries such as the United States, Germany and Britain and Sergiy Boyev, deputy minister for Strategic Industries in Ukraine, said Kyiv was in talks with manufacturers from Germany, Italy, France and eastern Europe about them producing weapons in Ukraine itself.

“We are in very detailed discussions with them. And we are certain that we will have the contracts agreements signed within the next few months,” Boyev told Reuters on the sidelines of the Paris Airshow.

In May, Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelenskiy said the country was working with British defence company BAE Systems to set up a Ukrainian base to both produce and repair weapons from tanks to artillery.

No deal has been signed yet.

Germany’s Rheinmetall said last month it had set up a joint venture with Ukrainian state-owned conglomerate Ukroboronprom to build and repair tanks in Ukraine. Operations were expected to begin from mid-July.

“Ukraine needs this because vehicles get damaged, they need to get repaired, they come under fire,” CEO Armin Papperger told Reuters last week.

“We aim to help Ukraine so they can do the maintenance on their vehicles and produce spare parts themselves.”

In encouraging foreign defence firms to produce arms in Ukraine, Kyiv could more efficiently meet its own needs while also building up its defence industry to target global customers at a time when it’s looking to create jobs for Ukrainians.

“The future deterrence of aggression will require a strong defence industry in Ukraine, a strong Ukrainian armed forces,” Boyev said.

“That’s why we think international partners coming to Ukraine, setting up production and making Ukraine part of the security framework for the free world is so essential.”

But former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a close ally of current President Vladimir Putin, has said Russia would retaliate by hitting any facility Rheinmetall set up in Ukraine.

“The decision should be greeted with salvos of Kalibr (cruise missiles) and other Russian pyrotechnic devices,” he said on his official channel on the Telegram messaging app in March after the first media reports of the investment.

DRONES

At the Paris Airshow on Monday, Boyev was courting dronemakers in particular, ranging from major international defence firms to small suppliers. He declined to say which companies he met with.

“We are discussing different levels of cooperation. And some of the companies say that they are willing to come and invest and produce drones,” he said.

Turkish defence company Baykar said late last year that it still planned to complete construction of a manufacturing plant in Ukraine in two years.

Baykar had announced plans to build the plant shortly before the Feb. 24, 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

Drones have been used extensively by both Moscow and Kyiv’s forces during the war. Kyiv says it is expanding its drone programme for both reconnaissance and attacking enemy targets over an increasing range.

Turkey, Norway and the United States are among the countries that have been supplying Ukraine with drones, but as the war intensifies more are needed.

Negotiations on producing drones could take longer, but Boyev said production in Ukraine could be an effective way to capitalise on the country’s existing drone expertise and create jobs in western and central Ukraine.

A senior European defence industry source, who did not wish to be identified, said that European rules and standards around drone testing could make it hard for companies to agree to produce and test drones in Ukraine.

But Boyev is hopeful that the country can attract foreign drone makers and said the Ukraine government could offer substantial support.

“We think that it’s just a matter of actually getting things done,” he said.