Denmark to send artillery to Ukraine, delaying own build-up

Leaders of the Joint Expeditionary Force meet in Riga
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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark said on Thursday it will donate 19 French-made Caesar howitzer artillery systems to Ukraine, fulfilling the wish of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy but stunting the Nordic country's own military build-up.

Kyiv last month asked Copenhagen to supply the weapons systems, sparking a debate in Denmark over whether the country could afford to donate much-needed artillery at the expense of its own armament as it seeks to build up depleted stock.

"We have been in continuous contact with the Ukrainians about the Caesar artillery in particular and I am happy that we have now received broad support from the Danish parliament to donate it to Ukraine's freedom struggle," Defence Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said in a statement.

As part of its commitments to NATO, Denmark has been tasked with establishing a heavy infantry brigade, known as the 1st Brigade, by 2032. The project however has been marred by delays, which have drawn criticism from the Western defence alliance.

"We must find a balance between helping Ukraine and continuing to strengthen the Danish defence so that we can safeguard Denmark's security and live up to our obligations in NATO," Ellemann-Jensen said.

The donation of the Caesar howitzers would delay the build-up of the 1st Brigade further, the ministry said. Denmark would seek to quickly acquire new military capacities in parallel with the donation, it added.

Denmark has not yet received all of the Caesar artillery systems, developed by French arms manufacturer Nexter.

(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard, editing by Terje Solsvik and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen)