Plan to buy ammunition for Ukraine fully funded, says Czech president

Czech President Pavel and French President Macron meet in Paris

PRAGUE (Reuters) -A Czech-led plan to buy 800,000 rounds of ammunition for Ukraine to fight Russia's invading forces has secured enough funding, with contributions from 18 countries, Czech President Petr Pavel said on Thursday.

The most pressing need for Ukraine two years after Russia's full-scale invasion began has become artillery ammunition, which is running low as the sides use heavy cannon fire to hold largely static, entrenched positions along the 1,000-km (620-mile) front line.

But the European Union has been unable to deliver 1 million ammunition rounds as it pledged to do a year ago, and U.S. military aid, which has been the backbone of international support for Kyiv, has stalled.

The Czech Republic has taken a lead on efforts to source more ammunition from third countries.

Pavel had said last month it had located 500,000 rounds of 155-calibre ammunition and 300,000 rounds of 122-calibre ammunition that could be delivered if funding was secured.

Speaking to reporters on a visit to regional towns on Thursday, Pavel said ammunition deliveries to Ukraine could start in weeks.

"As of this morning, we have collected the entire amount for buying all the ammunition, that is the 800,000 pieces," he told a briefing that was replayed on Czech Television.

The full funding comes after Norway had said earlier on Thursday it would donate up to 1.6 billion Norwegian crowns ($153 million) for the plan. That followed pledges by Germany and France also this week.

The Czechs had lined up early backing from Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands, among others. The government has not said from what countries supplies were being sourced.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Alison Williams, Alexandra Hudson and Hugh Lawson)