by Felícia Cabrita and José Miguel Pires
António Costa is expected to visit Ukraine towards the end of this month, according to data collected by Nascer do SOL in circles close to the prime minister.
The head of the Portuguese Government had revealed, last Wednesday, that he would accept the invitation of the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to travel to Kiev, but, either for reasons of scheduling, or for security reasons, the date of the trip has not yet been officially announced – with Sunrise confirming that it will be in three weeks.
Meanwhile, Nascer do SOL learned from a source from the Ministry of Defense that the Portuguese Government will finally send to Ukraine, in the context of supporting its war effort against the Russian invasion – and also corresponding to the appeal that President Zelensky left when spoke via web to the Assembly of the Republic – a set of 15 US-made M113 tracked armored vehicles, which have been in the service of the national army for almost 30 years and whose transfer was, in recent weeks, being pressured by the authorities of Washington. This confirms the news that, in this sense, was published last Saturday by this newspaper.
From the time when the US reduced staff in Europe
The vehicles in question, which are parked in the Campo Militar de Santa Margarida, were acquired by the Portuguese Army second-hand from the US, at reduced prices, when the US military personnel stationed in Europe in the 1990s, under the of the détente that followed the end of the Cold War with the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the implosion of the Soviet Union (1991) – which resulted in the independence of both the Baltic republics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, now members of NATO and the European Union – EU) and Ukraine in relation to Russia.
Since it is more advantageous for the Pentagon (North American Department of Defense) to leave these vehicles in Europe, which were already on the verge of technological obsolescence, instead of transporting them back to the USA, Portugal, for little more than symbolic values, was left with 104 M113A2 from the Netherlands and 50 M113A1 from Germany (not being able to resell them without prior authorization from Washington). The ten and a half armored vehicles that Portugal has now made available to be sent to Ukraine therefore make up around 10 percent of the total number of these vehicles.
Heard this week in the Assembly of the Republic, the Minister of Defense neither confirmed nor denied the news advanced by Nascer do SOL, with Helena Carreiras only saying: «[O Governo] is sending material, we have done it, and it has been announced». And adding: «We will continue to support as far as we can». “We have already sent a total of 170 tons of war and non-war material, including medical material, and we continue to evaluate the possibility of maintaining this support”, said Helena Carreiras, meanwhile, to journalists, during a visit to the Montijo Air Base, revealing also «availability, at the Armed Forces facilities, to receive about 40 wounded who may come, and to receive Ukrainian refugees – about 300 places – in a first reception».
Along with the 15 tracked armored vehicles (which are not considered tanks, the equipment of this type that the Ukrainian army most needs, but which Portugal does not have), the Government will also send five towed 15.5-caliber howitzers, half a hundred radios and some other kind of light weaponry.
Remember that, last week, Sunrise reported the shipment of a significant amount of ammunition and mortars, which were then in transit through Poland.
The dispatch of the caterpillars is, therefore, a concession to the request of Washington – and of Volodymyr Zelensky himself, the president of Ukraine who, in a speech to the Assembly of the Republic, asked for military support to the Portuguese – after the meeting that took place last week, at the military base. in Ramstein, Germany, between the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, and military officials from around 40 countries.
The meeting was convened by the Pentagon to discuss an aid plan for the Ukrainian armed forces, and the Portuguese Minister of Defense, Helena Carreiras, was present, albeit from a distance, after testing positive for covid-19.
At the meeting on German soil, moreover, the Americans augured a difficult future: the conflict between Ukraine and Russia could drag on for months, or even years. The United States thus left a warning to the crew, arguing that countries that are willing to militarily help Kiev to resist the aggression of Vladimir Putin’s regime should prepare to maintain this aid for a prolonged period.
Armored GNR vehicles are also already in Ukraine
Nascer do SOL also knows that the Portuguese authorities also ordered the GNR to make available to Ukraine four of its Iveco M 40.12 WM/P armored vehicles, manufactured in Italy, and that this security force adapted and improved it during the intervention in Iraq, performing an important role in police stabilization, side by side with the US and British armies, which invaded and occupied the country in 2003.
At the time, President Jorge Sampaio opposed the government of José Manuel Durão Barroso (PSD/CDS-PP) authorizing the sending to Iraq of Saddam Hussein of elements of the Portuguese army to join the allied invading forces, ending the solution as it is the sending of elements from the GNR, which for this purpose acquired Iveco.
These GNR armored vehicles have been stopped in Portugal after the end of the intervention in Iraq, having meanwhile been sent to Ukraine.
This material, however, still does not fit into the heavy offensive tools requested by Ukraine. They are, yes, patrol and escort vehicles in low-intensity war situations, and that, therefore, will not meet the most pressing needs of the Ukrainian army in the face of the invasion scenario that it is facing by Vladimir Putin’s troops.
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