US announces new military aid, drones for Ukraine

The United States said for the first time on Friday that it will give Ukraine Scan Eagle surveillance drones, mine-resistant vehicles, anti-armor rounds and howitzer weapons to help Ukrainian forces regain territory and mount a counteroffensive against Russian invaders.

A senior defense official told reporters that a new $775 million aid package will include 15 Scan Eagles, 40 mine-resistant and ambush-protected vehicles known as MRAPs with mine-clearing rollers and 2,000 anti-armor rounds that they can help Ukrainian troops to move. forward to the south and east, where Russian forces have laid mines.

The official said the US is looking to help train and arm the Ukrainian force of the future as the war drags on.

“These capabilities are carefully calibrated to make a difference on the battlefield and strengthen Ukraine’s position at the negotiating table,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted his thanks for the package on Friday, saying: “We have taken another important step towards defeating the aggressor.” This latest aid comes as Russia’s war against Ukraine nears its six-month mark.

It brings total US military aid to Ukraine to about $10.6 billion since the start of the Biden administration. It is the 19th time the Pentagon has provided equipment for Department of Defense actions in Ukraine since August 2021.

The United States has provided howitzer ammunition in the past, but this is the first time it will send 16 of the weapon systems. The aid package also includes 1,500 anti-tank missiles, 1,000 Javelin missiles and an undisclosed number of high-velocity, anti-radiation or HARM missiles that target radar systems.

Ukrainian forces have been successfully using various precision artillery systems in an attempt to contain Russian forces and regain territory that Moscow has gained.

The defense official briefed reporters on the new arms deal on condition of anonymity as per ground rules set by the Defense Department.

For much of the last four months of the war, Russia has focused on capturing the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists have controlled some territory as self-proclaimed republics for eight years.

Russian forces have made some incremental gains in the east, but have also been put on the defensive in other regions as Ukraine steps up its attacks on Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

The Russian-occupied territory was captured by Moscow in 2014. Last week it was reported that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed at an air base in Crimea in attacks that highlighted the Ukrainians’ ability to strike deep behind the enemy lines.

Russian leaders have warned that attacking the facilities in Crimea marks an escalation in the conflict fueled by US and NATO allies and threatens to draw the US deeper into the war.

A Western official said Friday that the war is at a “near operational standstill,” with neither side able to launch major offensives.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said the entire pace of the campaign has slowed, in part because both sides recognize that “this is a marathon, not a sprint and that spending rates and conserving your ammo is important.”

But U.S. and Western officials said Ukraine has been able to launch successful attacks behind Russian battle lines, which is eroding logistical support and command and control of Moscow’s forces and hurting their morale. .

The US official said that while Ukrainian troops have not been able to recapture much of the territory, they have been able to significantly weaken Russian positions in several places.

Efforts to curb the fighting have also continued. On Thursday, Turkey’s leader and the head of the UN met in western Ukraine with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. They discussed a range of issues, including a prisoner exchange and an effort to get UN atomic energy experts to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

The facility has been controlled by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began on February 24 and has been the target of several explosions.

Kyiv and Moscow accuse each other of bombing the plant, fueling international fears of a catastrophe on the continent.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would follow up with Russian President Vladimir Putin, given that most of the matters discussed would require the Kremlin’s agreement.

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