The United States has announced additional rounds of weapons for Ukraine valued at around $1 billion as Ukraine presses the West to deliver more military aid in the face of a Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region.
U.S. President Joe Biden said he informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the United States would provide the assistance, including additional artillery and coastal-defense weapons, as well as ammunition for artillery and advanced rocket systems.
“We also remain committed to supporting the Ukrainian people whose lives have been ripped apart by this war,” Mr. Biden said in a statement, saying that he informed Mr. Zelenskyy about the additional aid during a phone call earlier on June 15.
He said he was also announcing an additional $225 million in humanitarian assistance to people in Ukraine. The money is to be used to supply safe drinking water, medical supplies, food, shelter and cash for families to purchase essential items.
The military hardware packages include rockets for multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) already sent to Ukraine and artillery rounds for howitzers and spare parts in the first package, according to earlier news reports quoting sources outlining the aid.
A second package is expected to include ground-based, anti-ship rocket systems, secure radios, night vision and training.
The first package would involve the transfer of excess defense articles from U.S. stocks; the second package would be funded by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), a separate, congressionally authorized program.
Details of the aid come as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is meeting with allies in Brussels to discuss support for Ukraine.
At the start of the meeting, Mr. Austin said the West must step up weapons deliveries and “push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, its citizens and its territory.”
Mr. Austin expressed gratitude for the military aid that partners already had shipped or pledged but cautioned that “we can’t afford to let up and we can’t lose steam. The stakes are too high.”
The meeting of around 50 allies hosted by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg comes with Kyiv imploring the West to send more weapons to help fend off Russia’s onslaught in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine delivered a message to the meeting on behalf of its embattled troops.
“Brussels, we are waiting for a decision,” said Mykhaylo Podolyak, a senior aide to Mr. Zelenskyy, warning that Ukraine was outgunned by 10 to one.
“Daily, I receive a message from the defenders: ‘We are holding on, just say: when to expect the weapons?'” he said.
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on June 14 that Ukraine’s military had received only around 10 percent of the Western weapons it had requested.
“No matter how much effort Ukraine makes, no matter how professional our army, without the help of Western partners, we will not be able to win this war,” Ms. Malyar said.
She said Ukraine used 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day, while Russia uses 10 times more.
Mr. Stoltenberg warned it would take time to get the latest hardware into service with trained Ukrainian troops.
“Ukraine is really in a very critical situation and therefore, it’s an urgent need to step up,” Mr. Stoltenberg told journalists ahead of the gathering of NATO ministers.
Mr. Stoltenberg said that the allies had moved from sending older equipment to delivering “more long-range, more advanced air-defense systems, more advanced artillery, more heavy weapons.”
“So it is also a fact that when we now are actually starting the transition from Soviet-era weapons to more modern NATO weapons there will also be some time needed to just make the Ukrainians ready to use and operate these systems,” he said.
Mr. Stoltenberg said NATO leaders at a summit in Madrid later this month should agree on a “comprehensive assistance package” for Ukraine to help switch its forces to NATO-standard weapons over the longer term.
While the Western allies debate how best to help Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping assured Russian President Vladimir Putin of Beijing’s support for Moscow.
China has refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and has been accused of providing diplomatic cover for Russia by criticizing Western sanctions and arms deliveries to Kyiv.
State media reported that China was “willing to continue to offer mutual support [to Russia]on issues concerning core interests and major concerns such as sovereignty and security.”
The Kremlin said Mr. Xi and Putin had agreed during a phone call to ramp up economic cooperation in the face of “unlawful” Western sanctions.
(With reporting by Reuters, AP and AFP)
Copyright 2022, RFE/RL Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036; www.rferl.org (see https://www.rferl.org/a/stoltenberg-agrees-ukraine-needs-more-heavy-weapons/31898875.html).