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US unveils $820m in new military aid to Ukraine, including missile systems

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)
File photo shows an aerial view of the United States’ Department of Defense.

The United States on Friday unveiled another $820 million weapons package for Ukraine, taking the total of Washington’s military aid to Kiev under President Joe Biden to $7.6 billion.

The new package includes surface-to-air missile systems and counter-artillery radars to boost the embattled Ukrainian military.

In a statement, the acting Pentagon press secretary Todd Breasseale said $770 million of the assistance will be provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which allows it to procure weapons from defense contractors.

The Pentagon would be providing the remaining $50 million worth of weapons from “its own stockpiles,” reports said. 

Biden vowed on Thursday that the US and its NATO allies would support Ukraine "for as long as necessary" amid Russia's military operation that is now into its fifth month.

The fresh package follows a separate $450 million shipment of military aid announced last week, which included four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and patrol boats, among other equipment.

The US has now committed $7.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including $6.9 billion since Russia’s operation began on Feb. 24.

Russia launched the operation following Kiev’s failure 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.

The US national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday declared that they would be giving Ukraine advanced air defense systems without specifying a particular system.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also reaffirmed the NATO military alliance's support to Kiev, saying it will continue to supply Ukraine with weapons in the war against Russia for "as long as necessary".

“It is good that the countries that are gathered here but many others, too, make their contributions so Ukraine can defend itself - by providing financial means, humanitarian aid but also by providing the weapons that Ukraine urgently needs,” Scholz said during the NATO summit.

Russia has repeatedly blamed the West for prolonging the conflict by supplying weapons to Ukraine, and has targeted arms depots storing weapons provided to Kiev by the United States and Europe.

On Tuesday, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the more Western countries sent weapons to Ukraine the longer the conflict would last.

The top Russian diplomat said the position of the West regarding Ukraine is “absolutely counterproductive and harmful", adding that the more weapons are pumped into Ukraine, "the longer this conflict will last, the longer the agony of the Nazi regime which is supported by Western capitals  will last."

“I am saying it to emphasize the fact that the longer weapons are supplied, which are designed to prolong the conflict, prolong the suffering of civilians who constantly live under shelling by the Ukrainian neo-Nazi movement, the more missions we will perform on the ground,” Lavrov said.

“Pumping up” Ukraine with Western weapons will only lead Russia “to perform more missions on the ground,” he said.

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