France sending heavy artillery to Ukraine

France is sending several heavy artillery pieces to Ukraine, President Emmanuel Macron said Friday, as growing numbers of Western nations contribute heavier arms to Kyiv following the Russian invasion.

A French Caesar with self-propelled howitzer
A French Caesar (a truck equipped with an artillery system) with a self-propelled howitzer on board, one of the types of heavy artillery France is delivering to Ukraine. Nicolas TUCAT / AFP

“We are delivering significant equipment, from Milan (anti-tank missiles) to Caesar (self-propelled howitzers),” Macron told regional newspaper Ouest-France.

“I think we have to continue on this route. Always with the red line that we will not become parties to the conflict.”

Defence Minister Florence Parly confirmed on Twitter that France would send “several Caesar artillery cannons and thousands of shells”.

Built by partly state-owned arms maker Nexter, the Caesar is a 155mm howitzer mounted on a six-wheeled truck chassis, capable of firing shells at ranges of more than 40 kilometres (25 miles).

Macron’s Elysee Palace office did not reveal how many missiles and howitzers France would provide when contacted by AFP, saying that it did not want to reveal “operational information”.

But it added that the anti-tank missiles had already been delivered, while the howitzers would move “in the coming days”.

READ ALSO: Zelensky says he invited Macron to see evidence of ‘genocide’ in Ukraine

Around 40 Ukrainian soldiers will be trained in France on the weapons’ use from Saturday, the presidency said.

Ukrainian officials including President Volodymyr Zelensky have repeatedly implored European and NATO powers to provide heavier weapons, especially artillery, as Russia launches a fresh assault on its neighbour’s east.

Although some countries like the US have been quick to respond, others — notably EU heavyweight Germany — fear further antagonising Moscow by delivering more powerful arms for Ukraine.

“There is no textbook for this situation where you can look up at what point we will be seen as party to the conflict,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz told weekly Der Spiegel on Friday.

But he added that Europe’s top economy would replace Soviet-made weapons sent to Ukraine from eastern NATO and EU allies, including Slovenia, with new, German-made ones.

“This is a debate that goes to the heart of Germany’s political life, it’s a sovereign choice that belongs to Germany and we respect it,” Macron told Ouest-France, adding that he had recently spoken to Scholz.

“We have the same strategy as the chancellor, which is to say that we will aid the Ukrainians as much as possible but must be careful never to become parties to the conflict.”

READ ALSO: Meet the British couple hosting Ukrainians in northern France

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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.