EU buys weapons for Ukraine, closes its airspace to Russian aircraft

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The European Union on Sunday announced plans to close its airspace to Russian planes, and fund weapons for Ukraine to defend against Russia’s invasion of its western neighbor, according to international officials. 

“We are proposing a prohibition on all Russian-owned, Russian registered, or Russian-controlled aircraft,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “These aircraft will no more be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU.”

In addition, the EU plans to spend $507 million of its funds on weapons for Ukraine, and $56 million on other items, like medical supplies, a commission source told Reuters. 

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, left, and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell make a joint press statement at EU headquarters in Brussels, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, left, and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell make a joint press statement at EU headquarters in Brussels, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022.

It marked the first time the EU will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack, Ursula von der Leyen said. 

The EU’s 27 foreign ministers approved the support for Ukraine and those actions could take effect within hours, said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. He called it “a defining moment for European history.”

Demonstrators display placards as they march during a rally in support of Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Boston.

Demonstrators display placards as they march during a rally in support of Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Boston.

“Another taboo has fallen,” Borrell said in a statement before a meeting of EU foreign ministers. “The taboo that the European Union was not providing arms in a war.”

Borrell said EU defense ministers will hold talks Monday on how to convert the funds into useful military arms and equipment that will reach the Ukrainian armed forces. Poland has agreed to act as a hub to distribute them, he added. 

The EU will also ban Russian state-owned television network Russia Today and news agency Sputnik, officials said. 

The decisions came as Russian forces penetrated Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and blew up a natural gas pipeline on the fourth day of fighting. Russian President Vladimir Putin also raised the alert status for his nuclear forces, ordering the Russian defense minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put its nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty.”

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A view of a residential building damaged by recent shelling in Kharkiv on February 26, 2022.

A view of a residential building damaged by recent shelling in Kharkiv on February 26, 2022.
((Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images))

Putin spoke at a meeting Sunday with his top advisers and said NATO powers had made “aggressive statements” and that the West was imposing hard-hitting financial sanctions against Russia and himself. 

Biden had announced new sanctions last Thursday, which, in coordination with a coalition of other nations, would target more major Russian banks and make it harder for Russia to do business in dollars, Euros, pounds, and yen. 

The sanctions will also target Russian elites and limit the borrowing opportunities for 13 Russian entities and enterprises. There will also be “new limitations” on what can be exported to Russia, Biden said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine during a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine during a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

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On Sunday, Germany also said it would commit $113 billion to a special armed forces fund while vowing to keep its defense spending above 2% of GDP, according to the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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