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US will give $625 million in new military aid to Ukraine, Biden tells Zelenskiy

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)
The High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) is pictured during the military exercise “Namejs 2022” in Skede, Latvia, on September 26, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

US President Joe Biden has said that Washington will provide Ukraine with $625 million in new military aid, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, the White House said.

Biden made the pledge during a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday, Reuters reported. 

The White House said in a statement that Biden was joined in the call by Vice President Kamala Harris, adding that the US president underscored that Washington will never recognize Ukrainian territories joining Russia.

Biden "pledged to continue supporting Ukraine as it defends itself from Russian aggression for as long as it takes," the statement said.

This is not the first time that the US administration chooses to send weapons to Ukraine, using the "Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA)", which allows the president to authorize a transfer of excess weapons from US stocks without congressional approval.

Made by Lockheed Martin Corp the HIMARS launchers' accuracy and longer range have allowed Ukraine to reduce Russia's artillery advantage.

The US has thus far pledged 16 HIMARS launchers to Ukraine using PDA.

This is the United States' first military aid package since four Ukrainian regions, namely Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south of the ex-Soviet republic, voted overwhelmingly to join Russia.

US-supplied HIMARS missiles have played a key role as Ukrainian forces continue to fight off Russia, according to American officials.

The Pentagon has said Ukraine is "effectively employing" the lightweight mobile launchers and precision-strike munitions produced in Lockheed Martin facilities.

This package is the first aid package since Putin signed a decree for the formal accession of four regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to the Russian Federation.

Presiding over a signing ceremony with the Russian-installed heads of the four regions in the Kremlin on Friday, Putin announced that people in these regions are now considered Russian citizens as they have made their choice in referendums.

The Russian leader stressed that Ukraine has to respect the will of the people, vowing to defend the Russian land with all means.

Putin cited the “will of millions of people” shown by the referendums as the determining factor behind the move to join the territories as part of Russia.

The development came after people in the four regions overwhelmingly voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation in referendums.

The US State Department said in a release the aid package includes four HIMARS launchers and associated rockets, 32 Howitzers with 75,000 rounds of ammunition, 200 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, and Claymore anti-personnel mines.

Made by Lockheed Martin Corp, the HIMARS launchers' accuracy and longer range have allowed Kyiv to reduce Russia's artillery advantage.

"Recent developments from Russia's sham referenda and attempted annexation to new revelations of brutality against civilians in Ukrainian territory formerly controlled by Russia only strengthens our resolve," the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Last week, the Pentagon announced a $1.1 billion arms package for Ukraine, which included 18 HIMARS launcher systems, accompanying munitions, various types of counter-drone systems and radar systems.

The Pentagon made the announcement on Wednesday, saying it is committed to sending another 18 HIMARS to Ukraine.

HIMARS systems are intended to be a “core component of Ukraine’s fighting force in the future,” a senior US military official told reporters, adding that this new tranche will take a “few years” to build and deliver.

The arms package will take between six months and two years to deliver and require military contractors to restart or intensify manufacturing, a Pentagon official said.

The United States has already delivered 16 of the systems, capable of hitting targets with the precision of a "recognized and proven range" of up to 300 kilometers, according to its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.

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