The Pentagon announced a new military aid package to Ukraine worth 275 million dollarsin a move to bolster efforts to push Russian forces out of key areas in the south as winter approaches, US officials said Thursday.
Officials said there are no new weapons in the package, which is expected to be announced on Friday. Instead, the US aid is largely intended to resupply thousands of rounds of ammunition for weapons systems already there, including the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, that Ukraine has been using with success in its counteroffensive against Russia.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of a package that has not yet been made public.
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The new aid comes as US officials publicized efforts by the Biden administration to ensure weapons transferred to Ukraine do not end up in the hands of Russian troops, their proxies or other extremist groups. The plan, announced by the State Department on Thursday, notes that accounting for weapons is particularly difficult during an active war.
US officials have faced questions from some members of Congress about how the administration is accounting for the billions of dollars worth of weapons that were shipped to ukraine. But the administration had been reluctant to detail its work on that front due to concerns about the state of the conflict and fears it could alert would-be smugglers to potential evasion techniques.
“As in any conflict, we remain vigilant to the possibility that criminal and non-state actors may attempt to acquire illicit weapons from sources in Ukraine, including members of the Russian military, during or after the conflict,” the State Department said in a statement.
The three-part plan includes short-, medium-, and long-term initiatives to strengthen U.S. and Ukrainian oversight of transferred materiel, in particular more advanced missile systems and anti-aircraft devices, as well as to improve Ukraine’s aviation and border security to combat the misuse of weapons and prevent possible arms trafficking.
The State Department said that, so far, Ukraine’s intense demand for battlefield weapons appears to be preventing the black market proliferation of small arms, man-portable air defense systems and anti-tank weapons such as Javelins. He said the main problem has been the seizure of weapons by Russian forces as they take over, warning that Moscow can use them to develop countermeasures or carry out false flag operations.
The plan calls for increased border security, more training to improve accountability procedures, and better efforts to deter and intercept arms trafficking.
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Additional advanced weapons are also on their way to Ukraine.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters on Thursday that he expects the US to deliver the long-awaited NASAM advanced air defense systems to Ukraine early next month and train troops on them. The United States had promised to deliver two of the medium-range surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine soon.. He added that air defense remains the most critical capability that Ukraine needs at the moment.
The latest aid package, according to the officials, will come under presidential withdrawal authority, allowing the Pentagon to take weapons from its own inventory and quickly ship them to Ukraine.
Including the new $275 million, the US has now committed nearly $18 billion worth of weapons and other equipment to Ukraine since the war began on February 24.
Help arrives as Ukrainian forces fight to encircle the southern city of Kherson, attacking Russia’s foothold on the western bank of the Dnieper River, which divides the region and the country. Moscow-appointed authorities are reportedly leaving the city, joining tens of thousands of residents who have fled to other Russian-controlled areas.
(With information from Associated Press)