WASHINGTON: The United States will send Ukraine an additional $725m package of weapons and other military assistance, the White House has said, as Washington added to a flurry of aid announcements from European allies this week amid Russia’s renewed missile attacks on Kyiv and other targets.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Friday that the aid follows “in the wake of Russia’s brutal missile attacks on civilians across Ukraine”, and “the mounting evidence of atrocities by Russia’s forces”.
As Ukrainian “defenders push back Russia’s forces”, the US stands united with Ukraine, Blinken said later in a tweet.
Washington’s newest military package includes more ammunition for HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) and brings the total US military assistance to Ukraine to $18.3bn since the start of Joe Biden’s administration, the Department of Defence said in a separate statement.
The US has sent 20 HIMARS to Ukraine and has promised 18 more that would be delivered in the coming years. HIMARS have proven to be a critical weapon that has improved Ukraine’s ability to strike ammunition depots, bridges and other key targets that erode Russia’s ability to resupply troops.
Officials said the new US package is largely aimed at restocking thousands of rounds of ammunition for the weapons systems Ukraine has been successfully using in its counteroffensive against Russia, as the war stretches into its eighth month.
Ukraine’s immediate needs continue to be additional air defences, the Department of Defense said in a statement.
“The Russians have launched hundreds of rockets at the major Ukrainian cities. Ukrainian forces have had some success at shooting down the missiles, but they need more air defence capabilities,” the statement said.
A senior defence official told reporters at the Pentagon that Russia had fired more than 80 missiles at Ukrainian targets during one recent 24-hour period and that Ukrainian air defences were able to intercept about half of them.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the US assessment of the war, said that the intercepts use a lot of ammunition because it is likely Ukrainians fired more than one round at each incoming missile.
The US aid announcement caps a string of commitments from allies this week.
The United Kingdom said last week it would provide missiles for the advanced NASAM (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) the Pentagon plans to send to Ukraine. The UK also is sending hundreds of drones and 18 howitzer artillery guns.
Germany has sent the first of four promised IRIS-T air defence systems; France pledged more artillery, anti-aircraft systems and missiles; the Netherlands said it would send missiles and Canada is planning to send winter equipment, drone cameras and satellite communications.
The commitments come as Russia has intensified its attacks, hitting the Kyiv region with kamikaze drones and firing missiles elsewhere at civilian targets, including a hospital, a kindergarten and other buildings in the town of Nikopol, across the river from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
The attacks have been described as Russian revenge for the bombing of the strategic Kerch Bridge linking Russia with annexed Crimea. Kremlin war hawks have urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to escalate the bombing campaign even more to punish Ukraine for the recent truck bomb attack on the bridge.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attack.
Russia’s surge in missile strikes also represents an urgent effort by Moscow to regain its footing as Ukraine’s fierce counteroffensive has taken back towns and territory Russia had overrun in the earlier days of the war. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)