US President Joe Biden has earmarked an additional $800m in military equipment that will be directly transferred to Ukraine.
The announcement on Wednesday came the same day Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to the US Congress for more security aid to repel the Russian invasion, which has killed at least 1,834 civilians since it began on February 24.
The package includes a surge in US-provided anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, as well as drones. The aid demonstrates Washington’s “commitment to sending our most cutting-edge systems to Ukraine for its defence”, Biden said.
He later told a reporter he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “war criminal”, although White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki later said Biden was “speaking from his heart”, and the State Department was still in the process of determining if Putin has indeed committed war crimes.
The latest pledge does not include any reference to fighter jets that Zelenskyy has called for during the ongoing Russian attacks. The United States and other NATO allies have so far resisted Zelenskyy’s appeal to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine over fears it would lead to a larger confrontation between the bloc and Russia.
The White House also said Washington is “helping the Ukrainians acquire additional, longer-range” air-defence systems, but did not provide further details.
The most recent package brings the total US security aid to Ukraine announced since the Russian invasion began to $1bn. The Biden administration previously approved another $1bn in aid before the invasion began.
What’s in the latest package?
The Pentagon will send 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems in the latest round of security aid. The systems can be used to defend against helicopters and low-flying aircraft using infrared sensors to find a target.
The package will also include thousands of anti-tank weapons, including 2,000 Javelin systems, a shoulder-mounted weapon that is guided by a computer for deadly accuracy.
The US will also transfer 100 Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems, or drones, as well as an array of lighter weapons – 100 grenade launchers, 5,000 rifles, 1,000 pistols, 400 machine guns and 400 shotguns – and additional body armour, helmets and ammunition.
What has the US previously given Ukraine?
Washington previously provided Ukraine with more than 600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems and about 2,600 Javelin weapons.
In addition, the Pentagon gave Ukraine five Mi-17 helicopters, three patrol boats, an array of smaller arms, and several radar systems to track artillery, mortar, and drone attacks.
At least 30 countries have upped military assistance to Ukraine since the Russian attack, including Germany, which reversed a longstanding policy of not sending weapons to conflict zones.