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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France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.