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US announces additional $775mn arms package 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)
A file photo of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) operated by the Wisconsin Army National Guard on Sweden’s Gotland Island in October 2021. (By US Army)

The Pentagon has announced a new $775 million package of defense equipment and ammunition for Ukraine, including Himars missiles, artillery, and mine-clearing systems.

“We want to make sure that Ukraine has a steady stream of ammunition to meet its needs, and that’s what we’re doing with this package,” a senior US defense official told reporters on Friday.

On Thursday, three sources familiar with the matter told the Reuters news agency that the United States was readying some $800 million worth of additional military aid to Ukraine.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the new US military assistance could be announced as soon as Friday but added that an announcement could slip into next week.

US President Joe Biden would authorize the military aid using his Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the president to authorize the transfer of excess weapons from US stocks, they said.

They also cautioned that weapons packages can change in value before they are announced.

The US has given billions of dollars worth of weapons to Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a “special military operation” in Ukraine with the aim of “demilitarizing” and “denazifying” the country.

Ranging from anti-armor missiles to helicopters and beyond, the publicly-announced lethal aid packages have already exceeded $8 billion, with the vast majority of transfers happening under the Presidential Drawdown Authority.

Since the beginning of August, the Pentagon has announced two military aid packages worth $550 million and $1 billion. They include HIMARS ammunition, artillery ammunition, Javelin missiles and other anti-armor weapons.

Most of the funding for those weapons comes from money that Congress has set aside to arm Kiev. Congress has approved two aid packages for Ukraine, including $13.6 billion in March and $40 billion in May. Half of those amounts were earmarked for military assistance.

Russia has repeatedly warned that US and NATO shipments of weapons to Ukraine add fuel to the conflict between Moscow and Kiev and could bring unpredictable consequences.

Last Friday, Moscow announced that Russian forces had destroyed a US-made radar system and advanced US-made missiles in eastern Ukraine.

In its daily briefing, Russia’s Defense Ministry said two High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and AN/MPQ-64 radar systems in use by Ukrainian forces were destroyed in the Donetsk region.

The announcement came two days after the ministry said Russian forces had destroyed a German-supplied Gepard anti-aircraft system in use by Ukrainian forces in the Mykolaiv region.

The defense ministry also said it had shot down three Ukrainian warplanes in the Mykolaiv region, as well as seven HIMARS missiles in the neighboring Kherson region.

Putin said on Tuesday that the US was prolonging the war in Ukraine as part of what he called Washington’s efforts to maintain its global hegemony.

“The situation in Ukraine shows that the United States is trying to drag the conflict out,” said the Russian president, addressing the opening ceremony of a security conference in Moscow.

Washington is “using the people of Ukraine as cannon fodder”, he said, slamming the US for supplying weapons to Kiev. “They need conflicts to retain their hegemony,” he added.

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