WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration said Monday it would send its largest direct shipment of weapons to date to Ukraine as that country prepares for a potentially decisive southern counteroffensive against Russia, sending $1 billion in rockets, ammunition and other materials to Ukraine from Department of Defense Reserves.
The new US arms shipment would further strengthen Ukraine as it mounts a counteroffensive, which analysts say for the first time could allow Kyiv to define the course of the rest of the war.now at the half year mark.
Kyiv aims to expel Russian troops from Kherson and other southern territories near the Dnipro River. Russia in recent days was moving troops and equipment in the direction of southern port cities. to prevent the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
“At every stage of this conflict, we have focused on providing the Ukrainians with what they need, depending on changing conditions on the battlefield,” Colin Kahl, undersecretary for defense policy, said Monday in announcing the new shipment of weapons.
The new US aid includes additional rockets for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, as well as thousands of artillery shells, mortar systems, javelins, and other ammunition and equipment. Military commanders and other US officials say HIMARS and artillery systems have been crucial in Ukraine’s fight to prevent Russia from taking more ground.
While the US has already provided 16 HIMARS to Ukraine, Kahl said the new package does not include any additional ones.
“These are not systems that we evaluated that you need in the hundreds to have the kind of effects” needed, Kahl said. “These are precision-guided systems for very particular types of targets and the Ukrainians are using them as such.”
He declined to say how many of the HIMARS precision-guided missile systems were included in Monday’s announcement, but said the United States has provided “several hundred” of them in recent weeks.
The latest announcement brings the total US security assistance committed to Ukraine by the Biden administration to more than $9 billion.
In his late-night video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the United States for the package, saying, “We will use 100% to protect freedom, our common freedom.”
The announcement of the largest individual security assistance package so far was $1 billion on June 15. But that aid included $350 million in presidential retirement authority and another $650 million under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which provides funds for training, equipment and other security resources. necessities that can be bought from other countries or companies.
Monday’s package allows the US to deliver weapons systems and other equipment more quickly by removing it from Defense Department shelves.
In addition to the HIMARS rockets, it includes 75,000 155mm artillery rounds, 20 mortar systems and 20,000 rounds for them, 1,000 Javelin shoulder rockets, and other weapons, explosives, and medical supplies.
During the last four months of the war, Russia has focused on capturing the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists have controlled part of the territory as self-proclaimed republics for eight years. Russian forces have gradually advanced into the region as they launch missile and rocket attacks to restrict the movements of Ukrainian fighters elsewhere.
Kahl estimated that Russian forces have suffered up to 80,000 killed and wounded in the fighting, though he did not break out the figure with an estimate of forces killed.
He said Russian troops have managed to gain “incremental” ground in eastern Ukraine, though not in recent weeks. “But that has come at an extraordinary cost to the Russian military because of how well the Ukrainian military has performed and all the help the Ukrainian military has received. And I think now, conditions in the east have essentially stabilized and the focus is really shifting south.”
The new funding is being paid for through $40 billion in economic and security aid for Ukraine approved by Congress in May.
This is the 18th time the Pentagon has provided equipment from Department of Defense stockpiles to Ukraine since August 2021.
The United States and its allies are still evaluating whether to supply aircraft to Ukraine, Kahl said. “It’s not inconceivable that Western planes on the way could be part of the mix,” he said.
Zelenskyy, early in the war, placed almost daily orders for fighter jets, calling them essential to protecting the skies over Ukraine. The United States and some other NATO countries feared that might lure them into more direct involvement in Ukraine’s war against Russia, and have not provided Western aircraft.
Separately on Monday, the Treasury Department said it would send an additional $3 billion in direct economic assistance to Ukraine. That’s part of a previously approved $7.5 billion in financial aid, with $1.5 billion still to be disbursed.
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Fatima Hussein in Washington contributed to this report.