US President Joe Biden has announced he will send $ 800 million in additional military aid to Ukraine, including artillery, armored vehicles and helicopters, as the country prepares for a renewed Russian offensive in the southeastern region of Donbass.
In a statement Wednesday, Biden said: “I just spoke with [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky and told him that my administration allows an additional $ 800 million in weapons, ammunition and other security assistance to Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian military has used the weapons we provide with a devastating effect,” he added. “As Russia prepares to step up its attack in the Donbass region, the United States will continue to provide Ukraine with defense capabilities.
US aid comes as Ukraine prepares for a new and more brutal Russian military boost after successfully forcing Moscow’s forces to withdraw from the area around Kyiv.
The United States and its allies are seeking to provide weapons to help Ukraine as it moves away from the street and city battles that have dominated Kyiv’s defense to the more conventional battles expected in eastern Ukraine.
NATO officials say the US move is coming as Western countries become more susceptible to the idea of sending heavier weapons such as tanks and artillery to Ukraine in the past week. Allies increasingly believe that Kyiv’s position as an invading nation guarantees the provision of more aggressive weapons.
“One of the definitions the administration has used is offensive versus defensive [weapons]; now there is a feeling that is no longer a meaningful distinction, “said a US congressman familiar with the matter.
Last week, discussions on the possibility of sending fighter jets to Ukraine were also held at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, according to those present at the talks, a move that will mark a significant change in the level of lethal aid.
The United States has said it will send more Mi-17 helicopters to Ukraine as part of the latest package, in addition to several that were sent before the invasion began in February.
Additional 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 do it, “Zelenski said in a video call in English on Wednesday.
After the conversation with Biden Zelensky, he added on Twitter that the leaders “discussed an additional package of protective and possible macro-financial assistance for Ukraine. [and] agreed to increase sanctions. “
Zelensky said they also discussed possible Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine.
Last week, Jake Sullivan, U.S. National Security Adviser, and Mark Millie, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spent two hours on the phone examining Ukraine’s requests for help with the country’s chief of staff and Zelensky’s chief adviser.
The new promise will lead to $ 2.5 billion in total US aid to Ukraine since the start of the war.
Funding will come from the president’s withdrawal body, which allows the president to use U.S. weapons stockpiles during a state of emergency without congressional approval. But the administration is consulting with Congress on Tuesday’s decision, the man said.
The Pentagon is also convening eight leading US arms manufacturers on Wednesday to discuss boosting aid to Ukraine and preparing for a protracted conflict, two defense officials said.
On Monday, EU foreign ministers discussed shifting their arms supplies from lighter, more easily portable weapons such as anti-tank missiles to heavier equipment, including artillery, armored vehicles, multiple missile systems and tanks, according to informed sources. for discussions.
“Ukrainians are preparing to face this new stage of the war, and obviously we will help them. It’s no secret, “said Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, 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.
Rachel Rizzo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said the openness to sending heavier weapons could stem from the perception that the threat of nuclear war has diminished compared to earlier stages of the conflict.
“It simply came to our notice then [Russian president Vladimir] “Putin, who was doing it in the beginning, was a little distracted,” she said. “After all, the Russian army is simply not as great as the people thought, and the Ukrainian army was much better than the West thought it would be.
Additional reports from Roman Olearchik in Kyiv
Video: The battle on the air of Ukraine