New assistance includes artillery, drones and ammunition, as US seeks to help Ukrainians adapt to new phase of war.
The Pentagon has unveiled more details about a new US military aid package to Ukraine, which President Joe Biden said aims to help bolster Ukrainian forces’ response to Russia’s offensive in the country’s east.
Biden announced the new $800m assistance package earlier on Thursday, adding that he would be asking US legislators for more funds to keep the military aid “flowing without interruption” to Ukraine.
The Pentagon said the aid is “tailored to meet critical Ukrainian needs for today’s fight as Russian forces launch a renewed offensive” in the eastern Donbas region.
That is where Russian forces have shifted their focus, launching an offensive on the area on Monday and bombarding cities and towns across the region in the days since.
The new US military aid comes just more than a week after the Biden administration announced a first $800m military aid package for Kyiv, after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for more heavy weapons.
Here is what the latest US package contains:
It includes 78 155mm howitzers and an equal number of vehicles to move the artillery weapons, as well as 144,000 rounds of ammunition to go with them.
The US will also deliver more than 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems – drones – to Ukraine as part of the package, which also consists of spare parts and field equipment.
The Pentagon said in a statement that this brings the total of US military assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on February 24 to approximately $3.4bn.
Speaking to reporters, Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby said the artillery will suit the flat terrain in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces are now focusing their offensive.
Eighteen howitzers were also included in last week’s military aid package. The US this week began training a few dozen Ukrainian forces outside the country on the weapons systems.
Kirby said the howitzers will serve as “added firepower” for Ukrainian forces.
“Understanding that terrain, understanding the geography, understanding Russian doctrine here, we believed – but more critically, the Ukrainians believed – that they needed additional artillery firepower,” he said.
“And that’s what these will offer in addition to the 18 that are already beginning to move in as well.”
The Phoenix Ghost drone has been in development since before the invasion, Kirby said.
“But we will continue to move that development in ways that are attuned to Ukrainian requirements for unmanned aerial systems of a tactical nature in eastern Ukraine,” he added.
He said the drone is designed primarily – but not exclusively – to attack.
“Without getting into the specifications, but the kinds of things this drone can do lend itself well to this particular kind of terrain,” Kirby told reporters. “I think I’m just going leave it at that. But its purpose is akin to that of the Switchblade … which is basically a one-way drone, an attack drone. And that’s essentially what this is designed to do.”