VILNIUS – A total of fifty M113 armored personnel carriers donated by Lithuania have already reached Ukraine, but further military support will have to be discussed with NATO allies, Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said on Monday.
"As to military assistance to Ukraine, Lithuania has supported and will continue to support it," Anusauskas told reporters after the State Defense Council's meeting.
"Our armored vehicles arrived in Ukraine (...) just three days ago, and now 50 M113s have already been handed over to Ukraine," he said.
The president-chaired State Defense Council did not discuss military support to Ukraine, the minister said, adding that the meeting focused on the situation in the region, including Russia's military mobilization and possible asylum requests from Russian citizens.
According to Anusauskas, Lithuania will consider further possible support to Ukraine in consultation with its NATO partners, because the country has to meet its commitments to the Alliance and ensure the security of the troops it is hosting.
"Our armed forces are NATO's armed forces and our capability is also important for our allies who are here," the minister said. "This is why every time we consider a reduction of our capability (...), we have to discuss with our allies how we are going to compensate for this."
"There are many issues that cannot be resolved very quickly," he added.
To make up for the lost capability, Lithuania expects an earlier arrival of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs) under its contract with the United States, according to Anusauskas.
"Another 50 (JLTVs) will apparently arrive in November, in addition to the 50 that came last year," he said. "We'd like this to happen faster; not everything always goes according to our wishes, but there are always those conversations."
Earlier on Monday, the 15min news website reported, citing three sources, that Kyiv has asked Vilnius to hand over to Ukraine part of its German-made PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers, a Norwegian NASAMS air defense system and more US-made M113 armored vehicles.
When asked to comment on the news report, Anusauskas said that Lithuania "has not considered such things".
According to the minister, the PzH 2000 and NASAMS are "systems that have a critical role for Lithuania's defense", and the NASAMS system is the only one protecting the Siauliai air base and is "critical in the overall NATO context".
Lithuania lags well behind all neighboring countries in terms of its heavy artillery capability, he said.
"We have the only self-propelled howitzer battalion that has reached its full capacity, which is 18 units. Our neighboring countries, our northern neighbors, unfortunately, have much greater capabilities," Anusauskas said.
"Lithuania is lagging behind in this area, and I stress that this is not a capability that we have a lot of, somewhere in reserve," he added.
In addition to the M113s, Lithuania has handed over 105 mm howitzers and heavy mortars to Ukraine. Anusauskas stressed that these weapons had been part of the capabilities used by the Lithuanian Armed Forces, rather than a reserve.
"What makes us different from other countries is that we, seeing Ukraine's need, give them part of our capabilities," the minister said. "We emptied the warehouses a long time ago. It is difficult to define the limit (of what we can give); it depends on the situation in Ukraine."
"But we are discussing all things," he said, reiterating, however, that sending German howitzers and NASAMS systems to Ukraine is not under consideration right now.