US sends Ukraine more weapons and intelligence to repel Russian offensive

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The United States is funneling additional weapons to Ukraine and sharing more intelligence with kyiv while stepping up its rhetoric against President Vladimir Putin as Russian forces regroup for a new offensive in the southeastern region of Donbass.

US President Joe Biden has announced that the Pentagon will send an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine, including artillery, armored vehicles and helicopters, as the country prepares for a looming assault to be the bloodiest of these two months of conflict.

“The Ukrainian military has used the weapons we provide to devastating effect,” Biden said after a call Wednesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “As Russia prepares to step up its attack in the Donbass region, the United States will continue to provide Ukraine with the capabilities to defend itself.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday morning that one of its warships, the Moskva, was badly damaged.

“As a result of a fire on the Moskva missile cruiser, the ammunition exploded [and] the ship was badly damaged,” the ministry said in a statement quoted by RIA-Novosti, the state news agency. “The crew has been completely evacuated, the causes of the fire are being established.”

Maksym Marchenko, the head of the Odessa regional government, said in an online post that two Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles had caused “very serious damage” to Moskva.

The claims of the Ukrainian and Russian military could not be independently verified.

The US aid comes as Ukraine prepares for a Russian military push into the southeast of the country, after successfully forcing Moscow’s forces out of the area around kyiv.

Washington is also expanding the intelligence it shares with Ukrainian forces about Russia, U.S. officials said, adding that the change in guidance took place in the past few days.

“As the conflict evolves, we continue to adapt to ensure operators have the flexibility to share detailed and timely intelligence with Ukrainians,” a US intelligence official said.

The new military aid and intelligence sharing marks a significant expansion of US involvement in the conflict and reflects the belief of Washington and its allies that Russia is less likely to retaliate against the West as the fight progresses.

Biden ramped up the rhetoric against Putin, accusing him of orchestrating “genocide” by “trying to erase the idea of ​​being able to be Ukrainian”. The US president said lawyers should determine if Putin was guilty, but the comments amounted to Biden’s strongest condemnation of his Russian counterpart.

The US military assistance program includes 11 Mi-17 helicopters, 18 howitzers, 40,000 artillery shells, 300 Switchblade drones, 12 radar systems and Claymore landmines, among other equipment.

Washington hopes the weapons and intelligence will help Ukraine’s military as it moves from the street and city fighting that has dominated its defense of kyiv to more conventional battles expected in the east.

Radars and artillery systems will require additional training, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Wednesday, adding that the United States is still evaluating how best to teach Ukrainian forces. He said the Pentagon would likely use a “train-the-trainer” approach, removing a small number of Ukrainian soldiers from the battlefield who would return and instruct others.

Kathleen Hicks, US Deputy Secretary of Defense, met with the chief executives of eight major US defense contractors – including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman – to discuss increasing arms production in Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said.

Department of Defense and industry leaders discussed air defence, anti-armour, anti-personnel, coastal defence, counter-battery and communications systems, he said. declared.

NATO officials said Western countries had become increasingly willing to send heavier weapons such as tanks and artillery to Ukraine over the past week.

“One of the definitions the administration used is offensive versus defensive. [weapons]; there’s a kind of feeling now that it’s not a meaningful distinction anymore,” said a US congressional aide familiar with the plans.

Discussions on the possibility of sending fighter jets to Ukraine also took place last week at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, according to people present at the talks. Such a move would mark a significant shift in the level of lethal aid Western countries were prepared to provide kyiv.

The increased US aid comes in response to Zelensky’s calls for heavier weapons to fight Russian tanks and missiles.

“Freedom must be better armed than tyranny. Western countries have everything to make it happen,” Zelensky said Wednesday in an English-language video. The Ukrainian president also discussed possible Russian war crimes with Biden.

Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, and Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spent two hours on the phone last week discussing Ukraine’s requests for help with the armed forces chief. of the country and Zelensky’s main adviser.

The new $800 million pledge will bring total US aid provided to Ukraine since the war began to $2.5 billion.

Funding will come from the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the president to draw on US stockpiles of weapons in an emergency without congressional approval. The administration consulted with Congress on Tuesday, however, the person said.

EU foreign ministers on Monday discussed shifting their arms supplies from lighter and more easily transportable weapons such as anti-tank missiles to heavier equipment including artillery, armored vehicles, multiple rocket launcher systems and tanks, according to people briefed on the talks.

“The Ukrainians are preparing to face this new stage of the war and obviously we are going to help them. It’s no secret,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said this week. “From a military point of view, since we will not intervene in the war, the only way to help them is to provide them with the necessary equipment so that they can fight.”

Additional reporting by Roman Olearchyk in Kyiv

Video: the battle of the airwaves in Ukraine


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