The new Slovak populist cabinet of Robert Fico has axed the latest round of the military aid package prepared by their predecessor technocratic cabinet of Ludovit Odor.
“With great pleasure, I can announce that the whole cabinet unilaterally rejected sending of these weapons and ammunition to Ukraine,” premier and the Smer party leader Fico commented in a video message posted on his Facebook following the cabinet session held on Wednesday, November 8.
Previously, the latest military aid package to Ukraine was suspended by mutual agreement between Odor and Slovak president Zuzana Caputova following Smer’s victory in the September 30 elections and pending the decision of the new cabinet.
“We are clearly demonstrating that we prefer sending humanitarian aid to Ukraine and that sending supplies of weapons and ammunition from state stocks has ended,” Fico also stated in his Wednesday’s message after the cabinet’s anticipated move.
Slovakia has so far backed Ukraine with 13 military aid packages worth €671 and has been among the most active Nato backers of Ukraine, sending heavy weapons, including Mig-29 fighter jets, T-72 tanks, anti-air and artillery systems to help Ukraine thwart off the full-scale invasion launched by the Russian military last February.
Smer party is coming off an aggressive nationalist campaign during which it vowed not to send “a single more bullet” to Ukraine and also adopted Kremlin propaganda, blaming “Ukrainian fascists” for the start of the war in 2014.
The campaign was dominated by widespread online disinformation, adopted also by populist and far-right parties, as well as circulated hoaxes and deep fake videos smearing Smer's rivals, liberal Progressive Slovakia.
After the election victory, Smer formed a coalition with its breakaway party, centre-left Hlas and far-right SNS. Both Smer and Hlas were suspended from the European grouping of Socialists for joining forces with SNS.
On Monday, November 6, Fico also stated that his cabinet “won’t prevent” local companies from “manufacturing weapons and delivering those” in an anticipated nod to the Slovak defence industry with which Smer enjoys good relations.
The new Minister of Defence and Fico’s close party collaborator Robert Kalinak joined the video message, stating that the “technocratic cabinet of Mr. Odor was able to prepare aid packages for anyone but Slovak people,” pointing out that this latest package for Ukraine would have been worth €40mn.
“We need to primarily focus on helping our people, and that is why I am glad our proposal [to axe the package] was approved and supported,” Kalinak concluded.
The axed military aid package consisted of 4mn pieces of 7.62mm ammunition, 5,172 pieces of large artillery calibre 125mm ammunition, 140 missiles for anti-air defence system Kub, 8 missile launchers and 1,200 mines.