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US announces $2bn in new Ukraine military aid as war completes a year

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky outside the golden-domed cathedral of St. Michael’s monastery in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, on Monday. (Photo by AP)

The United States is preparing a fresh military aid package to Ukraine worth $2 billion, a senior US official has said, defying repeated warnings from Moscow as the war completes one year.

President Joe Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan made the disclosure on CNN Thursday night, asserting that Washington is ready to support Kiev for the long haul in the war against Russia.

"We're going to continue to look at what is necessary, and make sure that we provide what is necessary that Ukraine has what it needs to succeed on the battlefield," Sullivan said while announcing new aid.

Sullivan, who accompanied Biden on an unannounced trip to Kiev earlier this week, said US officials are constantly looking to give Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration the tools it needs to win against Russia.

He did not reveal details of the new military package, which is expected to be officially announced on Friday, but Western media reports said it builds on previous packages to aid Kiev's defense.

The CNN report said the $2 billion package includes new funding for contracts including HIMARS rockets, 155-millimeter artillery ammunition, drones, counter-drone equipment, mine-clearing equipment and secure communications equipment.

“Russia’s aims in this war were to wipe Ukraine off the map, to take the capital and to eliminate Ukraine, to absorb it into Russia,” Sullivan said. “They failed at doing that and they are in no position to be able to do that as we go forward.”

Sullivan said the US has provided Kiev with the assistance it needs for each phase of the war, but acknowledged that the Ukrainians have "often asked for more than the US is willing to give".

The top US security official reiterated the Biden administration’s position that it’s not currently providing F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, much to the chagrin of Ukrainian officials.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said whether or not to arm Ukraine with drones doesn't make any sense at the moment.

Scholz, who has previously faced criticism for pulling back on sending tanks to Ukraine, said difficulties faced by other countries in meeting Ukraine's military demands vindicated his decision to move to lock them down.

Earlier this month, Germany agreed to send heavy battle tanks to help Ukraine attack Russian forces in the east of the country, allowing other countries to send them. However, the delivery has so far been slow due to limited donor resources.

"Maybe this is an indication of why it's so important to coordinate with each other, with the U.S., for example, and to prepare these decisions carefully so they work," he was quoted as saying.

The German magazine Der Spiegel wrote in a report on Thursday that Russia is negotiating with a Chinese manufacturer to buy 100 drones with an April delivery date.

The report said Chinese drone maker Xian Bingo Intelligent Aviation Technology showed readiness to build 100 prototypes of ZT-180, which the magazine said could carry a 35- to 50-kilogram warhead.

"I have told China's representatives that it cannot be accepted," Scholz told ZDF public television on Thursday when asked about reports that China might help Russia.

In recent days, the United States, Germany and other Western countries have warned China not to sell weapons to Russia for its war with Ukraine, saying that any move could have severe consequences.

China says it wants to prevent Ukraine crisis from getting out of control

Chinese foreign ministry announced in a statement on Friday said Beijing wants to prevent the Russia-Ukraine crisis from getting out of hand, noting that dialogue and negotiation are the only viable ways to resolve the one-year-long conflict.

On the anniversary of Russia's military operation in Ukraine on February 24, China called for a comprehensive ceasefire and a gradual reduction of tensions between the warring sides.

"Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiraling out of control," the foreign ministry statement said.

EU's ambassador to China Jorge Toledo told reporters at a news conference in Beijing on Friday that China's position paper is not a peace proposal, but added that the EU will review it.

"If the position paper is a positive sign for Ukraine then it's a positive sign for the EU, although we are studying the paper closely," he said.

Ukraine called the position paper a "good sign" and said it expected China to be more active in supporting Ukraine.

Washington, meanwhile, has expressed concerns over growing cooperation between China and Russia.

US President Joe Biden will meet with the leaders of the Group of Seven and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday to mark the anniversary of the war and announce new sanctions against those allegedly helping Russia's military operation.

UN demands Russia withdraw from Ukraine

This is while the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday called for ending the war in Ukraine and demanded Russia’s immediate withdrawal from the country

Ukraine received strong support in a non-binding vote with 141 of the 193 UN members in favor, seven against, and 32 abstentions, including China and India.

The UN Assembly reiterated its demand that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine and called for a cessation of hostilities”

"Today, United Nations General Assembly has just spoken very clearly," said European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

"This vote shows that the international community stands with Ukraine."

President Joe Biden's national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, called the vote "a powerful call for a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in Ukraine in line with the principles of the UN Charter."

This vote took place after two days of debate during which Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba asked the international community to choose between "good and evil".

"The vote defies the argument that the Global South does not stand on Ukraine's side, because many countries representing Latin America, Africa, Asia voted in favor today," Kuleba said.

"The support is much broader, and it will only continue to be consolidated and to be solidified," he added.

Russia launched what it calls "a special military operation" in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, over the perceived threat of the ex-Soviet republic joining NATO.

Since then, the United States and Ukraine's other Western allies have supplied it with tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons, including rocket systems, drones, armored vehicles, tanks, and communication systems.

Western countries have also imposed a slew of economic sanctions on Moscow. The Kremlin has repeatedly warned that the sanctions and the Western military assistance will only prolong the war.

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