WASHINGTON (AP) — In anticipation of a renewed Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine, President Joe Biden on Wednesday approved an $800 million military assistance package, including additional helicopters and the first supply of American artillery.
Ukrainians will also receive armored personnel carriers, armored Humvees, naval drones used in coastal defense, as well as equipment and equipment used to protect soldiers during chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological attacks.
LOOK: Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby holds a press conference
“This new assistance package will contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the broader assault we expect Russia to launch into eastern Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement.
“The steady supply of weapons that the United States and its allies and partners have provided to Ukraine has been critical to supporting its fight against the Russian invasion,” Biden added. “It contributed to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin failing in his original war aims to conquer and control Ukraine. We cannot rest now.
Biden announced the aid after a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. This is the latest in a series of US security assistance programs totaling $2.6 billion that have been committed to Ukraine since the invasion of Russia on 24 february. Armament and support material have played an important role in Ukraine’s successful defense so far.
Biden is under pressure from members of both parties in Congress to expand and accelerate US aid.
Robert Gates, a former CIA director and secretary of defense, said Wednesday he believed the administration should push for arms donations from NATO members in Eastern Europe, whose arsenals include Soviet-era tanks and other weapons and equipment that could help Ukraine immediately.
“The United States should act, 24/7 – how do we mobilize the equipment and how do we get it into Ukraine and into the hands of Ukrainians,” Gates said in a sponsored online forum by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. .
“It’s extremely important and extremely urgent, and we should kind of trash those states’ arsenals, and I think they would be cooperative, especially” if they receive assurances that the Pentagon will provide American replacements for weapons given.
The Pentagon said the $800 million package announced by Biden includes weapons and equipment that will require training for a Ukrainian military not fully accustomed to US military technology. US and allied forces were present in Ukraine to train for eight years before pulling out ahead of the latest Russian invasion.
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The new weapons set includes 18 US Army 155mm howitzers and 40,000 artillery shells, two air surveillance radars, 300 Switchblade armed “kamikaze” drones and 500 Javelin missiles designed to knock out tanks and other armor . Also included are 10 counter artillery radars used to track incoming artillery and other projectiles to determine their point of origin for counterattacks.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said delivery of the materials would be expedited, but he offered no specific timeline.
“This list came directly from multiple conversations with Ukrainians over the past few days as we started to see the Russians start to reprioritize the fight against Donbass,” he said, referring to the passage from Russia from a failed offensive in northern Ukraine targeting Kyiv, the capital, to a buildup of forces in the eastern Donbass region, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.
Ukrainian military personnel will need training in radar as well as howitzers and Switchblade drones, Kirby said. He said the training could be done by US soldiers in Europe and arrangements are being worked out.
“These aren’t very complex systems,” Kirby said, so extensive training probably won’t be necessary.
Other items in the package include 11 Soviet-era Mi-17 helicopters that the United States planned to supply to Afghanistan before Biden decided last year to pull out of the country altogether.
They are transport helicopters that can also play an attack role. The Pentagon previously sent five Mi-17s to Ukraine, Kirby said.