Biden announces another $1 bn in military aid for Ukraine, fanning flames of war
The US government on Wednesday announced that it will provide Ukraine with an additional $1 billion in military aid, in response to repeated pleas for support from Kiev.
In a statement, US President Joe Biden said he had informed his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky that the US was providing another $1 billion in military aid to the crisis-hit country.
He said the aid included “additional artillery and coastal defense weapons, as well as ammunition for the artillery and advanced rocket systems”, which the Ukrainians need to “support their defensive operations in the Donbas”.
“The bravery, resilience, and determination of the Ukrainian people continues to inspire the world. And the United States, together with our allies and partners, will not waver in our commitment to the Ukrainian people as they fight for their freedom,” Biden said.
A report in CNN said the new package will include weapons that can be proficiently shipped from current US stockpiles to ensure long-term supplies for Ukraine.
The announcement came hours after the US defense secretary Lloyd J. Austin III called on Western allies to ramp up their military aid to Ukraine, saying the country was “facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield”.
“We can’t afford to let up, and we can’t lose steam,” Austin told the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a group of nearly 50 countries, during a meeting in Brussels.
The top American defense official praised the supply of arms to Ukraine but hastened to add that it was not enough. “The stakes are too high,” he asserted.
Ukraine has been pushed to the back foot by Russian forces that have made rapid advances in the east of the country, on the verge of seizing the strategic city of Sievierodonetsk.
Britain's defense ministry said Wednesday on Twitter that Russian forces were now in control of the city of Sievierodonetsk, citing intelligence reports.
Notwithstanding the supply of Western arms, the Ukrainian forces have struggled to fend off the offensive that began in late February.
Russian Defense Ministry on Wednesday said a NATO warehouse had been destroyed by its missiles in the Lviv region, which was being used to store ammunition for weapons donated by NATO members.
The operation was launched after Kiev failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
“Russia is using its long-range fires to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions,” Austin said in his remarks on Wednesday. “So we must intensify our shared commitment to Ukraine self-defense, and we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself.”
The heavy arms that Washington has so far supplied Ukraine include 108 howitzers and four HIMARS truck-mounted multiple-launch rocket systems, with missiles that have a range of up to 40 miles.
According to a report in New York Times, the first Ukrainian batch is scheduled to complete its training on the HIMARS system on Wednesday and is set to be deployed on the battlefield next week.
Earlier on Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the West needed to send Ukraine "more heavy weapons" to fend off what he called Russia’s "brutal invasion,".
NATO was already "stepping up" deliveries and officials would be meeting in Brussels on Wednesday to coordinate further support, Stoltenberg said at a news conference.
On Tuesday, Ukraine's defense ministry said the country had only received a fraction of the arms it had requested while Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki said the West was "not doing enough" to support Kiev.
It came after a senior Pentagon official rejected reports that the US or other Western allies were being recalcitrant in supplying arms to Kiev, despite warnings by the Kremlin.
“We’re going to provide the Ukrainians what they need to prosecute the targets inside Ukrainian territory,” Colin H. Kahl, the undersecretary of defense, said at a security conference in Washington.