US, European allies pledge more military firepower for Ukraine | Russia-Ukraine war News

The United States and some of its European allies announced significant new arms donations to Ukraine, including armored vehicles and heavy weaponry, ahead of a crucial meeting to bolster the country’s defenses nearly a year after Russia invaded.

The US said its package of military support – which includes armored personnel carriers, air defense systems and tens of thousands of missiles and artillery shells – is worth about $2.5 billion. There will be 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers, the US Department of Defense said in a statement on Thursday.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said it was a “significant new package of security assistance to help Ukraine continue to defend itself against Russia’s brutal war.” The latest package brings U.S. military aid to Ukraine to about $27.4 billion, he added.

Earlier, the United Kingdom, in a joint statement with defense ministers and representatives of nine European countries, said it would send 600 Brimstone missiles to Kyiv, while Denmark pledged 19 French Caesar howitzers and Sweden its Archer artillery system, an advanced mobile howitzer Ukraine wants from months.

“We recognize that equipping Ukraine to push Russia out of its territory is just as important as equipping it to defend what it already has,” the statement said.

“Together, we will continue to support Ukraine to move from resistance to the expulsion of Russian forces from Ukrainian soil.” The new level of combat power required is achieved only through combinations of squadrons of main battle tanks, under air and anti-missile defense, operating together with divisional artillery groups, and additional deep precision fire, allowing the targeting of Russian logistics and command nodes in the occupied territory.

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INTERACTIVE-WHO CONTROLS WHAT IN UKRAINE
(Al Jazeera)

The announcements came ahead of a meeting of defense and other officials from around 50 countries, including all 30 NATO members, at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to discuss support for Kyiv amid brutal fighting in eastern Ukraine and ongoing airstrikes of Russia against its cities.

Looking ahead to talks with Germany, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Thursday that Kyiv expected “strong decisions” from the meeting.

“We are actually now waiting for a decision from a European capital that will activate the prepared chains of cooperation regarding tanks,” Zelensky said in a video address.

“We are preparing for the Ramstein meeting tomorrow. We expect strong decisions. We expect a powerful package of military aid from the US,” he added.

The Kremlin’s warnings

Pressure on Germany to hand over its advanced Leopard 2 tanks is mounting, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government so far appearing reluctant to allow their transfer for fear of provoking Moscow. Germany has veto power over any potential transfer.

The Kremlin warned on Thursday that sending heavy weapons capable of hitting Russian territory would be interpreted as an escalation.

“Potentially, this is extremely dangerous,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “This will mean taking the conflict to a whole new level, which, of course, will not bode well from the point of view of global and pan-European security.”

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Both Ukraine and Russia relied heavily on Soviet-era T-72 tanks, which were destroyed in their hundreds during the war, which began on February 24 last year when Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops across the border in what he continues to call “special military operation”.

Two Caesar howitzer systems displayed by the Danish Army.  Their weapons are aimed at the sky and there are millions of men around.
Denmark is among nine European countries, all NATO members, offering more heavy weapons to Ukraine. The Danes said they would send the Caesar howitzer weapon system [File: Henning Bagger and Ritzau Scanpix/AFP]

Fearing that the colder months will give Russian forces time to regroup and launch a significant attack, Ukraine has stepped up calls for its allies to increase aid.

During his trip to Washington, D.C. in December, Zelensky told the US Congress that support for Ukraine is not charity, but an investment in democracy.

Berlin on Thursday appeared to leave open the prospect of allowing allies to supply Ukraine with the requested tanks, saying the situation “will become clear in the next few hours or tomorrow morning”.

Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas told AFP that “some countries will send” Leopard tanks to Ukraine, promising “more news tomorrow” during the talks.

Ukraine’s Western allies are reluctant to transfer heavier weapons to avoid the appearance of NATO confronting Russia directly, but officials in Kyiv say the tanks are crucial if Ukraine is to regain ground. occupied by the Russians, and to defend against new attacks.

“From Washington to London, from Paris to Warsaw, you hear one thing: Ukraine needs tanks. Tanks are the key to ending the war properly. It’s time to stop trembling in front of Putin and take the last step,” Zelensky’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in a tweet.

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Meanwhile, CIA Director William Burns traveled secretly to Kyiv to meet with Zelensky, a US official told Reuters news agency on Thursday, declining to say when the visit was.

The Washington Post, which first reported Burns’ trip, said the CIA director was in Ukraine late last week and briefed Zelensky on how the US sees Russia in determining its military plans in the coming weeks and months.

Fighting continues to be most intense in the eastern industrial region known as Donbas, the Ukrainian military said Thursday evening.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported that Russian forces shelled the city of Bakhmut, Russia’s main focus in Donetsk Oblast, which together with Luhansk Oblast forms the Donbass region.

Soledar, about 20 km (12 mi) from Bakhmut, was also shelled. Russian forces say they control the city, which is known for its salt mines, while Ukraine says its military is still fighting there.

Nearby towns have also been shelled by Russian forces – including Klishchievka, south of Bakhmut, the Ukrainian military said. Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Wagner’s Russian mercenary army, said his forces had taken control of Klishchievka, a claim disputed by Ukraine.

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