West sends Ukrainian warplanes and heavy weapons amid Russian attack in Donbass

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Ukraine’s military, outgunned and outmanned, has held off Russia for nearly two months, and as Russia intensifies its attacks on eastern and southern Ukraine, Western governments are sending more weapons heavy weapons and warplanes to support resistance efforts.

President Biden last week approved a new $800 million aid package that dramatically expanded the reach of the weapons Washington has provided kyiv. The set included 155mm howitzers – a serious long-range artillery upgrade to match Russian systems – 40,000 artillery shells and 11 Soviet-designed Mi-17 helicopters.

The latter fit well with Ukraine’s existing arsenal because they use an operating system similar to that of the Mi-8 helicopters that kyiv has used for decades, said Alexey Muraviev, national security expert at the Curtin University in Australia.

“We do our best with each package to adapt it to the need of the moment, and now the need has changed,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday. “The war has changed, because now the Russians have prioritized the Donbass region, and it’s a whole different level of fighting, a whole different kind of fighting.”

Ukraine has also received fighter jets and related parts from other countries, Kirby said. He declined to specify what type of planes were supplied or which countries supplied them.

At the start of a visit to the three Baltic NATO member states, the German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Wednesday that Germany had delivered anti-tank weapons, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles “and other things that we have not talked about in public so that the deliveries can be made quickly and safely.”

Some of the material sent by the West will arrive ahead of expected clashes between Russian and Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donbass region which will be particularly bloody, said Chang Jun Yan, a military expert at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Future fighting is likely to be bigger than recent fighting between the two countries, he said, but Ukrainian troops who have been battling Russian-backed separatists in the region for years are also well trained to fight in Donbass. .

But fresh weapons shipments and familiarity with the terrain do not mean Ukrainian forces will have it easy against Russian troops who have superior weapons. A senior US defense official said this week that Russia was learning from its failure to seize the capital Kyiv and making adjustments to its command and control and logistics structures.

“The resupply of Ukraine is not only important, but must be done quickly and on a large scale,” said Mick Ryan, a retired Major General in the Australian Army, who analyzed the invasion. “He must also assume that the Russians might interdict a shipment.”

Washington Post Pentagon and National Security reporter Karoun Demirjian explains the difficulties in deciding which weapons to send to Ukraine. (Video: Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

Why is Ukraine’s Donbass region a target for Russian forces?

Other Western countries have also decided to deliver more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine as the war progresses. In April, Britain pledged a defense support package worth around $130 million that includes more anti-tank missiles, air defense systems and non-lethal equipment. Norway announced on Wednesday that it donate 100 Mistral air defense missiles in addition to the light anti-armour weapons he promised at the end of last month. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday that his government would soon send “heavier” military equipment.

Further, the Australian government began sending Bushmasters to Kyiv after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked lawmakers in Canberra for armored vehicles last month. The promised 20 Bushmasters will protect Ukrainians from explosives, artillery shrapnel and small arms fire, Canberra said.

Ukraine will need arms deliveries in the future if it is to fight Russia, and analysts say the 40,000 rounds promised by Washington would not last more than two weeks on the battlefield. “Quantity really matters a lot,” Ryan said. “Even though I think the Ukrainians are qualitatively better, they still need some mass to hold off the Russians.”

Although some equipment – ​​such as the Bushmasters – is advanced, much of what the West provides is not as sophisticated as the weapons in the Russian arsenal. (Western leaders have insisted that they send readily usable equipment. The United States has also pledged to train Ukrainian forces who are out of the country to use new weapons.)

Most weapons from the West “would not give the Ukrainian army the technological advantage of the Russian army, but they will allow it to compensate, at least temporarily, for the shortage of military supplies”, Muraviev said.

Karen DeYoung, Rachel Pannett and Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.


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