Moscow warns BAE Systems its planned weapons factory in Ukraine is a target

The UK defence company signed a deal with Kyiv to produce light guns in Ukraine

Ukrainian armed forces train with the L119 Light Guns made by BAE systems
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The Kremlin has warned BAE Systems that its new light artillery facility in Ukraine is a target for the Russian military offensive against its neighbour.

The British defence and aerospace company this week announced that it was establishing a local presence in Ukraine and had signed agreements to support Kyiv’s war effort.

But Moscow said the manufacturer’s base risks being hit by its forces if it is suspected of producing weapons used against Russian troops.

"Of course, any facilities for the production of weapons, especially if these weapons fire at us, they become objects of special attention for our military,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked about the move.

Mr Peskov said the move would not influence the course of conflict or contribute to a reduction of hostilities.

BAE Systems, the UK’s largest defence company, said on Thursday it had established a unit in Ukraine and signed deals with the government to boost Kyiv's supplies of weapons and equipment.

The company is believed to have not yet opened a factory or office in Ukraine, but is discussing such a move.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the agreement after a “very productive” meeting with BAE’s chief executive Charles Woodburn.

"The best weapons that are currently helping our warriors defend Ukraine should be produced in Ukraine,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“The development of our own weapons production is a top priority. In particular, artillery – L119 and M777 systems, armoured vehicles – robust CV90. These are the weapons of BAE Systems, which is starting to operate in Ukraine.”

BAE said the move would enable it to work directly with Kyiv to explore potential partners for a plan to ultimately produce 105mm light guns, a kind of artillery weapon, in Ukraine, and to better understand the country’s defence requirements.

Writing on X, the company said pacts had been signed "to ramp up our support to Ukraine’s armed forces and to explore the supply of light guns" to Kyiv's forces.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine’s minister for strategic industry, expressed gratitude to BAE for standing with Ukraine and said the new partnership would "localise the production of advanced weapons”.

In May, President Zelenskyy said that his government was working with the aerospace and defence manufacturer to create a plan for it to open an office in Ukraine.

A year and a half into the war, Ukraine is eager to increase supplies of arms, and also create jobs in the war-hit economy.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, western defence companies have been weighing up opportunities to make weapons in the eastern European country.

BAE is the largest defence contractor in Europe and had annual sales of more than £23 billion ($29.19 billion) and almost £2.5 billion in profits in 2022.

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Updated: September 01, 2023, 2:58 PM