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US to announce $750 million in new military aid for Ukraine

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Ukrainian service members unload a shipment of US military aid at the Boryspil International Airport outside Kiev, Ukraine January 25, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

The administration of US President Joe Biden is expected to authorize the transfer of $750 million in additional military aid to Ukraine, which is under Russian military strikes.

The new military aid package would likely include military equipment such as unmanned surface vehicles, Mi-17 helicopters, howitzers and protective equipment against possible chemical attacks, two US officials familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

One of the officials said the package was still being finalized and some equipment could be included in a later package of weaponry.

A former US official described the aid shipment as “a package that’s built around the idea of larger-scale combat,” adding that sending short-range anti-ship missiles was under serious consideration.

Meanwhile, US Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks also said that the Pentagon was looking to provide Ukraine with weapons that would “give them a little more range and distance.”

The US has already delivered $2.4 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of  Biden’s term in office, though much of that aid has come since Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine began in late February.

The latest US aid package, which appears specifically aimed at helping Ukrainian forces fight Russia in the eastern Donbass, comes at a time that Russia is moving its focus to the capture of the Ukrainian region.

Earlier in the day, Biden accused Russia of committing "genocide" in Ukraine, after clashes escalated between Russian troops and Ukrainian forces over the control of the besieged port city of Mariupol.

His comments followed allegations from Ukrainian forces that Russia had used chemical weapons while besieging Mariupol. The claims have yet to be verified. "There is a theory that these could be phosphorous munitions," Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said.

Pro-Russia forces in the east have denied using chemical weapons in Mariupol.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that the US was not yet in position to confirm reports of the use of chemical weapons in Ukraine but was working to determine what happened.

"We're in direct conversation with partners to try to determine what actually has happened," Blinken said, adding that it had been a focus of concern even before Russia moved its troops into Ukraine.

Last month, Biden vowed to respond "in kind" to such an attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the military offensive against Ukraine on February 24. The conflict has provoked a unanimous response from Western countries, which have imposed a long list of sanctions on Moscow.

Since the onset of the military campaign in Ukraine, Russia has been trying to connect the Crimean Peninsula with the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, known as the Donbass, laying siege to the strategically-located city of Mariupol, once home to more than 400,000 people.

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