Biden announces $800M in Ukraine aid, including artillery, helicopters
President Biden announced Wednesday that his administration would authorize $800 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine, including artillery, helicopters and armored personnel carriers.
Biden said in a statement that he briefed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the new assistance in a phone call earlier Wednesday.
“The Ukrainian military has used the weapons we are providing to devastating effect. As Russia prepares to intensify its attack in the Donbas region, the United States will continue to provide Ukraine with the capabilities to defend itself,” Biden said.
“This new package of assistance will contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine,” he said. “These new capabilities include artillery systems, artillery rounds and armored personnel carriers. I have also approved the transfer of additional helicopters.”
The Pentagon said more specifically that the aid package includes 11 Mi-17 helicopters, 300 Switchblade drones, 200 M113 armored personnel carriers, 18 Howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds, 10 counter-artillery radars, 500 Javelin missiles, unmanned coastal defense vessels and protective equipment in the event of a chemical or biological weapons attack.
Biden also said that the U.S. would help transfer “significant capabilities” from other allies to Ukraine, without providing specific details on those capabilities.
The formal announcement Wednesday came after news outlets including The Hill reported that Biden was expected to approve an additional $750 million in military assistance for Ukraine to combat Russia’s invasion.
A source told The Hill earlier Wednesday that the assistance package is expected to include Howitzer artillery.
The U.S. has committed $1.7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began nearly seven weeks ago.
But Ukraine has pleaded for additional weaponry and systems to repel Russian attacks. Before his call with Biden on Wednesday, Zelensky posted a video to Twitter asking for additional air defense systems, combat aircraft, artillery, armored vehicles and tanks from the U.S. and its allies.
“Freedom must be armed better than tyranny,” he says in the video, which was posted in English and Ukrainian. “Arm Ukraine now to defend freedom.”
The U.S. has stepped up security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion began. Last week, the Biden administration helped facilitate the transfer of a Soviet-era S-300 air defense system from Slovakia to Ukraine by repositioning a U.S. Patriot missile system in Slovakia.
There had been questions leading up to the official announcement about whether helicopters would be included new package, but Biden’s statement made clear they would be.
“It was unclear for a while from their side whether they wanted additional helicopters,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday. “Today, they made clear they wanted them in.”
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters that the 11 Soviet-era Mi-17 helicopters included in the package were initially earmarked for Afghanistan.
Kirby also said the U.S. was exploring ways to train Ukrainian forces on some of the systems being provided.
“We believe that we can put together appropriate training for some of these systems very, very quickly,” Kirby said, noting that the systems are not very complex.
Kirby explained that decision on what assistance to provide came directly out of recent conversations between U.S. and Ukrainian officials and said the Pentagon would deliver the new weaponry and equipment “as quickly as possible.”
At the same time, Biden has resisted calls from Ukraine to supply the country with fighter jets. The administration rejected a plan last month that would have involved transferring MiG-29 jets from Poland to Ukraine out of concern it would escalate tensions with Russia.
Evelyn Farkas, the top defense official for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia during the Obama administration, told The Hill on Wednesday that the U.S. should supply Ukraine with fighter aircraft, more offensive weaponry, and better maritime weaponry.
“We want to inundate Ukraine with military assistance so that we can bring this to a rapid military conclusion,” she said.
After failing to seize Kyiv, the Russians have withdrawn forces from around the Ukrainian capital and are expected to focus attacks on the south and east, including the Donbas region.
Jordan Williams contributed.
Updated at 4:13 p.m.
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