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US likely to send $450 million in military aid to Ukraine: Officials

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 patrol an area in the city of Sievierodonetsk, Ukraine, on June 20, 2022. (Reuters photo)

The United States is likely to offer an additional $450 million in military aid to Ukraine, including more long-range rocket systems, according to a report.

A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Thursday the latest package is expected to include four additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).

The official added that details of the aid package could change at the last moment.

Russian forces are advancing in Ukraine’s east in a bid to capture the industrial heartland known as the Donbas, where Ukraine troops are encircled by Moscow’s troops.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the US to provide heavy arms and urged the European Union to grant membership to his country.

Since the onset of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, the United States and its European allies have been sending a flood of advanced weapons into Ukraine to help its military fend off Russian forces.

Ukraine hopes to outmaneuver the Russians by obtaining more advanced weapons. Kiev heavily relies on its Western allies to regain the Donbas, composed of the two breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where the Russian military has focused its attention on.

Pro-Russia forces had held parts of Luhansk and Donetsk regions even before the Russian onslaught began.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian government said it had received the first tranche of HIMARS, a long-range weapon system that Kiev hopes can help turn the tide in the months-long battle.

The latest package comes after President Joe Biden's administration last week announced that it would provide Ukraine with an additional $1 billion in military aid that includes anti-ship rocket systems, artillery rockets, howitzers and ammunition.

Biden said he had informed 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 Ukraine government said it needs the HIMARS systems to better match the range of Russian rocket systems that it said were being extensively used against Ukrainian positions in Donbas.

American officials have said that while HIMARS are vital for Ukrainian forces, but no single weapon system alone can change the war.

Russia has warned it will strike targets in Ukraine that they "have not yet been hitting" if Washington supplies longer-range missiles to the country for use in high-precision mobile rocket systems.

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.

The Biden administration has already approved more than $40 billion in “aid” for Ukraine.

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 operation against Ukraine began in late February.

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