WASHINGTON (AP) – In anticipation of a new Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine, President Joe Biden on Wednesday approved a $ 800 million military aid package, including additional helicopters and the first supply of US artillery.
The Ukrainians will also receive armored personnel carriers, armored Humvees, naval drones used for coastal protection, as well as equipment used to protect soldiers from chemical, biological, nuclear and radiation attacks.
“This new aid package will include the very effective weapons systems we have already provided, the new capabilities adapted to the wider attack that we expect Russia to launch in Eastern Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement.
“The steady supply of weapons provided to Ukraine by the United States, its allies and partners is crucial to sustaining its fight against Russian aggression,” Biden said. “It helped ensure that (Russian President Vladimir Putin) Putin failed to conquer Ukraine and control the goals of his initial war. We can not rest now. “
Biden announced the aid after a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. It is the latest in a series of $ 2.6 billion in US security assistance packages to Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24. Weapons and auxiliary materials have so far played a significant role in Ukraine’s successful defense.
Biden is under pressure from members of both houses of Congress to expand and accelerate US aid.
Former CIA Director’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Wednesday that he believed the administration should make efforts to donate weapons to NATO members in Eastern Europe, which have Soviet-era tanks, other weapons and equipment in their arsenal that could be used immediately. to help Ukraine.
“The United States must act 24/7. “How do we mobilize the equipment? How do we move it to Ukraine? To the Ukrainians,” Gates said at an online forum sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. .
“It’s very important, it’s very urgent, we’s going to have to loot the arsenals of those countries, I think they will cooperate, especially if they are guaranteed that the Pentagon will provide American replacements for donated weapons.”
The Pentagon says Biden’s $ 800 million package includes weapons and equipment that will require some training for Ukrainian servicemen unfamiliar with US military technology. US և Allied forces were present inside Ukraine to provide eight years of training before coming out on the eve of Russia’s latest invasion.
The new weapons package includes 18 US Army 155mm howitzers, և 40,000 artillery pieces, two air surveillance radars, 300 Switchblade kamikaze drones, and 500 Javelin missiles designed to shoot down tanks and other armor. Also included are 10 anti-artillery radars used to track down incoming artillery and other projectiles to determine their source of counter-attack.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that the delivery of materials will be accelerated, but he did not offer a specific schedule.
“This list comes directly from the many conversations we have had with the Ukrainians over the past few days, when we began to see the Russians now reaffirming the battle of Donbas,” he said, referring to Russia’s transition from a failed attack on Ki in northern Ukraine. to rally forces in the capital’s eastern Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.
The Ukrainian military will need training on radars, as well as howitzers and Switchblade drones, Kirby said. He said the training could be carried out by US troops in Europe, and arrangements were being made.
“These are not very complex systems,” Kirby said.
Other items on the package include 11 Soviet-era Mi-17 helicopters that the United States planned to provide to Afghanistan before Biden’s decision to withdraw from the country last year. These are transport helicopters that can also act as an attack. The Pentagon had previously sent five Mi-17s to Ukraine, Kirby said.
Zack Miller և Robert Burns, Associated Press