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Ukrainian military gets $1.5 billion aid boost from Western countries

Twenty-six countries decided to donate $1.5 billion to Ukrainian military initiatives in a first step to sustain aid for what many predict will be a long-term conflict with Russia.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CN) — Representatives from 26 Western nations gathered in Copenhagen on Thursday and agreed to donate a collective $1.5 billion to support continued military assistance to Ukraine in the fight against Russia.

“All the participating nations here pledged support for training and demining activities,” said Danish Minister of Defense Morten Bødskov, adding that the 1.5 billion euros ($1.55 billion) "will be used in 2022 and next year.”

According to a joint declaration, the money will fund specific projects that will “facilitate continued long-term funding” and “enhance armaments, production, including of artillery and ammunition.”

The funding will also help “develop and strengthen training of Ukrainian soldiers and assist Ukraine’s efforts within demining in the best possible way," the declaration states.

The donor conference – dubbed #CopenhagenUkraine and hosted by Denmark, Ukraine and the United Kingdom – is taking place at Christiansborg Palace in the Danish capital, where the 26 countries are meeting to strengthen cooperation with Ukraine. Discussions about weapon donations, training and demining are central themes at the conference to sustain longer-term military support to Kyiv for a conflict with no end in sight.

Denmark’s government has decided to aid Ukraine with around 820 million kroner ($114 million) to finance weapons and training of Ukrainian soldiers, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced in her opening remarks at the donor conference Thursday.

“We all must continue to increase our support to Ukraine – with weapons, training, demining and financially,” Frederiksen said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy opened the conference with a speech via video, calling the gathering potentially “historical.”

He highlighted a nuclear threat in Europe that could turn catastrophic, referring to the continent's biggest nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia, which is currently under Russian control but still maintained by Ukrainian employees. Reports from early this week said the the plant was damaged after it came under attack last weekend.

“Russia is a terror state, which holds the nuclear plant as its hostage and threatens everyone with an atomic catastrophe,” Zelenskyy said.

“I am sure that you all have considered what to do if Russia uses strategic atomic weapons. Think about how Russia can trigger history’s biggest state of emergency because of radiation in Zaporizhzhia. The effect could be worse than Chernobyl,” he warned.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a statement last week that there is a “very real risk of nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond.”

The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss what to do about the situation involving the Ukrainian nuclear plant.

Bødskov, the Danish defense minister, called Thursday’s donor conference the “third phase” of support to Ukraine. The first phase was immediate support at the beginning of the invasion in February when countries inspected their weapon armories. The second phase was coordinated international funding based on Ukraine’s requests, and the current third phase is a long-term plan to continue assistance – which could encourage the weapon industry to produce in larger quantities.

On Wednesday, the Danish Ministry of Defense said that close to 100 million kroner ($14 million) will support a British-led military training project for Ukrainian soldiers. As part of the project, 130 Danish soldiers will train their Ukrainian colleagues on Danish soil.

Norway will also train Ukrainian soldiers in the United Kingdom, Norwegian Minister of Defense Bjørn Arild Gram told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

“The Ukrainian forces are in dire need of further training and education. Norway is positive about the British initiative to train Ukrainian soldiers in Great Britain. We will come with instructions to do basic soldier training, like several other countries,” he said.

With its the latest donation, Denmark has now contributed close to 4 billion kroner ($555 million) to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion.

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