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MILITARY

Lithuania pushes to buy German artillery

Germany said Wednesday it wants to sell howitzer-type mobile artillery vehicles to Lithuania as the Baltic NATO nation boosts its defences amid concerns over neighbouring Russia.

Lithuania pushes to buy German artillery
A German PzH 2000 mobile artillery vehicle. Photo: DPA

"It is possible to give those 12 howitzer tanks to Lithuania," German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told journalists in Vilnius.

Von Der Leyen did not disclose the price, but said experts would invoke a "solidarity" clause when they finalise the deal next month.

German media reported the hardware was used by Berlin in Afghanistan and is now worth €15 million.

"We are interested in moving fast," Lithuanian army colonel Romualdas Petkevicius in charge of weapon procurement told AFP, adding he hoped the hardware would arrive next year.

Lithuania is seeking "PzH 2000"-type howitzers. Petkevicius said the Baltic state was also mulling whether to buy German Boxer-type armoured fighting vehicles.

Under Moscow's thumb until 1991, Lithuania along with fellow Baltic states Estonia and Latvia launched a concerted drive to boost defences since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine last year.

NATO members since 2004, the three Baltic states have repeatedly asked allies to step up their presence to deter Russia.

Berlin will send over 500 troops to Lithuania for military exercises this year.

NATO is also reinforcing its defences on Europe's eastern flank with a rapid reaction force of 5,000 troops and command centres in six formerly communist members of the alliance, including the three Baltic states.

SEE ALSO: Germany falls behind on military spending

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BUNDESWEHR

German army suspends soldiers over far-right suspicions

The German army has suspended soldiers in its ceremonial guard over suspicion of sexual aggression and sympathy with the far-right, a recurring problem within the Bundeswehr.

Members of the German Armed Forces at a ceremony in Brandenburg.
Members of the German Armed Forces at a ceremony in Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

The company, part of a prestigious battalion tasked with welcoming foreign heads of state, was “withdrawn” from active service in relation to incidents which occurred “in a far right context”, a spokesman for the German defence ministry said Friday.

The group is said to have participated in “perverse initiation and drinking rituals” and submitted new recruits to “sexualised violence”, according to the spokesman.

A witness told the German weekly Der Spiegel, which uncovered the affair, that within the battalion’s second company, at least six soldiers had formed a far-right group, calling themselves the “wolf pack”.

The head of the group is said to have aimed racial insults at other soldiers from minority backgrounds. A soldier at a rank equivalent to corporal is said to have worn a t-shirt with the slogan “Sonnenstudio 88”, a number which represents “Heil Hitler” in the neo-Nazi movement.

The alleged incidents “bring shame on us all”, the defence ministry spokesman said.

The German army, the Bundeswehr, will “pursue all legal means” to “remove” the culprits identified by other soldiers.

The German government has been worried for years about some soldiers, including those in the special forces, adhering to far-right groups.

The elite KSK commando force was partially dissolved in 2020 after munitions were stolen and members were seen performing a Hitler salute at a party.

In June, a platoon stationed in Lithuania was recalled after accusations of racist and anti-Semitic behaviour.

READ ALSO: Germany shakes up elite army force right links

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