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Working tirelessly to turn country into a weapons production hub for the West: Ukraine minister

7 months ago 94

Ukraine’s newly appointed head of defence industry is working tirelessly to increase local arms production and transform the country into a weapons production hub for the West.

Oleksandr Kamysyhin, Ukraine’s Minister for Strategic Industries, emphasized the importance of investing in defence systems, especially in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East.

“We’re dedicated to making Ukraine the arsenal of the free world,” Kamyshin said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday.

He pointed out that around 500 companies in Ukraine’s defence industry actively contribute to the country’s efforts to enhance weapons production. These include 70 state-owned factories, over 200 predominantly private factories specializing in unmanned systems, and more than 200 private sector companies engaged in the production of various types of weaponry and ammunition.

“We are focused on producing all types of weapons and ammunition, and we show that we can test it on the battlefield and make it better during the war,” Kamyshin said. “That’s something we can contribute to the free world because as you see, the defence industry is becoming more and more important globally.”

Oleksandr Kamyshin was appointed to the post around eight months ago and is now in charge of 300,000 people employed in Ukraine’s defence industry.

He previously worked as the chief of the national railway Ukrzaliznytsia, which under his rule, became famous for keeping trains running on time despite the war, crucial to evacuating hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to safety in the early days of Russia’s invasion.

Now he recalls that time as his “past life” and says he is completely focused on making the defence industry a successful enterprise like Ukrzaliznytsia.

He acknowledges that he has had to start scaling the local manufacture of weapons from scratch. Ukraine barely had a local defence industry to speak of before 2022, he said, with the military mainly relying on what it already had and what it received as military aid from allies before the war began with Russia’s invasion in February 2021.

Now, Ukraine is delivering locally produced munition to the battlefield and can increasingly strike inside Russia, he said.

He declined to disclose specific figures but said Ukraine is manufacturing mortar and artillery ammunition, drones, armoured vehicles, missiles and various other items. The industry, he says, has grown by dozens or even hundreds of times compared to the previous year in some segments.

Artillery ammunition production has increased by 20 times in the last 10 months, and armoured vehicle production has grown by five times during the same period, he said.

Most crucially, Kamyshin says that the increased local production of weapons has enhanced Ukraine’s capabilities to launch attacks on Russian territory.

“As you know, Moscow never sleeps. Now, Sochi never sleeps. Now, Krasnodar never sleeps. And there would be more Russian cities that never sleep,” said Kamyshin, referring to regular drone strikes occurring on Russian territory.

Since the onset of the war, the Western allies were careful with providing Ukraine with weapons that could reach Russia, fearing the strikes of Western-supplied weapons on Russian territory would lead to a wider war.

Kamyshin acknowledged that defence technology, particularly in the field of innovative warfare, is a game-changer and the fastest-growing sector in Ukraine’s defence industry.

As many allies have significantly depleted their stocks in order to support Ukraine, the country has recently hosted an international defence industry conference seeking other forms of cooperation, including the joint production of weapons. Kamyshin said that over 60 companies signed an agreement to become a part of the Alliance of Defence Industries of Ukraine after the forum. He revealed they are mostly companies from the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Turkey.

The minister has ambitious plans for the future of Ukraine’s defence industry and believes that one day, his country will be able to export various types of weapons and munition, just as it exports its grain across the world.

“That’s something we can contribute to the free world because, as you see, the defence industry is becoming more and more important globally,” he said, adding that it could help to revitalize Ukraine’s economy, drained by war.

Despite the claims of steady growth, Kamyshin admits that it will never be possible for Ukraine to cover its needs without supply from its foreign partners.

“No matter how much you grow, it would never be enough because we got the greatest war of generations,” he said, referring to Russia’s invasion.

With inputs from AP.

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