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Le Monde
Le Monde
17 Feb 2024

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A brief embrace in the courtyard of the Elysée Palace, before a promise of long-term support in the face of Russian aggression. Almost two years after the invasion of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky was hosted by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Paris late Friday afternoon, February 16. After more than an hour of talks, the two men signed the bilateral security agreement promised by Paris to Kyiv at NATO's Vilnius summit in July 2023.

In the process, Macron struck an unprecedented hard line against the "Kremlin regime," deemed responsible for the death in prison of opposition figure Alexei Navalny. "Today, Vladimir Putin's Russia has become a methodical player in the destabilization of the world," he said, before promising the Ukrainian leader that he would support his country for as long as necessary. "We are determined to stand by your side against Russia," repeated the French head of state.

At the heart of the 10-year security agreement signed with Ukraine is a promise of support on an unprecedented scale, with up to €3 billion in military support promised in 2024. The French president is seeking to meet the expectations of his Ukrainian counterpart, who welcomed this commitment while responding to accusations of softness from some of his European partners, who criticize France for not doing enough for Ukraine.

Defending itself, Paris claims to have already provided Kyiv with €3.8 billion in military aid in 2022 and 2023, a figure significantly higher than analysts' estimates, but which remains difficult to verify, as no details have been given on the nature of the expenditure. Until now, the Elysée has always refused to provide such an assessment, both to avoid provoking Russia and to avoid giving it operational information.

Does this discretion still apply? A document released by the president states that France has so far supplied Ukraine with 30 Caesar cannons and 4 unitary rocket launchers, as well as 38 AMX-10 RC reconnaissance tanks, 250 VAB armored personnel carriers, 17 Milan anti-tank firing posts, 5 Mistral anti-aircraft firing posts, and two Crotale ground-to-air batteries, not to mention "around a hundred" Scalp cruise missiles.

Despite these indications, a gap remains with Ukraine's other major European allies, at least according to the Kiel Institute, which has been compiling data on aid from individual countries since the start of the conflict. According to this source, France's contribution is limited to €600 million, compared with €9.1 billion for the UK and €17.7 billion for Germany. This ranking is strongly contested by Paris, which now has the figures to back it up.

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