While the Pentagon chief was rallying more international support for Ukraine in Brussels, President Joe Biden reaffirmed the US commitment at home.
Biden on Wednesday said the United States would contribute an additional $1 billion in security assistance and $225 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine after a phone call with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Biden said the new package includes more artillery and coastal defense weapons, along with ammunition, to bolster Ukraine’s efforts to defend the eastern Donbas region from a fierce Russian offensive. The humanitarian portion of the package is devoted to providing drinking water, medical care, food, shelter and other needs.
“The bravery, resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people continue to inspire the world,” Biden said in a statement. “And the United States, along with our allies and partners, will not waver in our commitment to the Ukrainian people as they fight for their freedom.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels earlier on Wednesday, noted that the US and its allies had recently provided artillery support for long-range missiles but said more help was needed because Ukraine “is facing a critical moment on the battlefield”.
The request to increase firepower comes as Moscow may increase defense spending by 20% to combat a war that shows no signs of ending anytime soon.
“Russia is using long-range firepower to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions, and Russia continues to bombard Ukraine’s sovereign territory and recklessly endanger Ukrainian civilians,” Austin said. . “Therefore, we must strengthen our shared commitment to Ukraine’s ability to defend itself.”
►President Joe Biden on Wednesday ask oil producers to reduce gas coststold them in a letter that “amid the war that has sent gasoline prices up more than $1.70 a gallon, historically high refinery margins are exacerbating that pain.”
► Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Wednesday confirmed that he had been transferred to another prison and placed in quarantine, writing on the messaging app Telegram that he had been transferred to the secure IK-6 prison. maximum security in the village of Melekhovo in the Vladimir region, about 155 miles away. east of Moscow.
►French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday said the right time for a visit to Kyiv but did not provide further details. Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi are expected to visit Ukraine in the coming days, according to multiple reports.
► Russia’s state-controlled energy giant Gazprom said for the second day in a row it is reducing natural gas through a key European pipeline, by a total of 60% of what it supplies. earlier levels, creating energy chaos on the continent.
►NHL officials decide they won’t win the Stanley Cup to go to Russia or Belarus this summer, which ignores the informal tradition for players from other countries to allow them to travel there while spending a day with the trophy. Officials notified both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche of the decision.
Two American veterans from Alabama, who were helping Ukraine fight against Russia, have gone missing amid reports that they were captured by Russian-backed separatists. If the information is confirmed, they will be the first US citizens arrested after arriving in Ukraine’s aid.
Relatives of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Trinity, and Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, have contacted state congressional offices seeking information on the whereabouts of the man and press aides. said.
Representative Robert Aderholt said Huynh had volunteered to fight with the Ukrainian army against Russia and his relatives had not heard of him since June 8, when he was in the Kharkiv region, northeastern Ukraine. located near the Russian border. Huynh and Drueke were together, an Aderholt aide said.
The US State Department said it was reviewing the reports and advised Americans not to travel to Ukraine, pointing out that US citizens were criticized by Russian security officials. “We are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities,” the ministry said in a statement.
A court in Donetsk, under separatist control, sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan man to death last week after finding them guilty of “mercenary activities”.
Dozens of countries are joining the United States in pushing for a pledge to support Ukraine’s efforts to combat aggression, US military leaders said Wednesday following a meeting with 50 allies in Brussels. of Russia.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, appearing with Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced the Pentagon would send $1 billion in weapons to help Ukraine’s efforts to stop a Russian attack. in the eastern Donbas region.
The 12th package approved by Biden since August includes long-range, missile-supported artillery, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and more conventional cannons and ammunition. US allies also pledged to continue to support the Ukrainian military.
“The international community cannot allow this obvious act of Russian aggression to go unanswered,” Milley said.
According to Austin, Ukraine says it needs more artillery, armored vehicles and long-range and conventional air defenses.
“It was never enough,” Austin said. “And so we will continue to work hard to get the most out of it, as quickly as we can.”
The Russians defeated the Ukrainians in the Donbas – some estimates put it 20 to 1 in weapons – Milley said, but the Ukrainians continued to engage in house-to-house skirmishes there, Milley said.
“The progress the Russians made was slow, the slogans were tough, the battle of attrition was fierce, almost like World War I, and the Russians suffered a tremendous amount of casualties,” Milley said. great.
– Tom Vanden Brook
Nearly two-thirds of Ukraine’s children have been displaced from their homes, with families sometimes leaving their fathers behind to fight wars, UNICEF said. Some families have moved to western Ukraine, which is relatively peaceful, while others have fled across the border to Poland or other countries. Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, says trauma and fear can have long-term effects on children’s mental and physical health.
“Children are forced to leave their homes, friends, precious toys and belongings, family members, and face uncertainty about the future,” says Khan. “This instability is robbing children of their futures.”
Russian forces have been bombing Ukrainian cities indiscriminately, sometimes cutting off humanitarian evacuation corridors. Result: At least 277 children were killed and 456 others injured.
“The use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas and attacks on civilian infrastructure must stop,” Mr Khan said. “It is killing and ravaging children and preventing them from returning to any normal life in the towns and cities that are their home.”
The Harpoon, a powerful anti-ship missile, is one of Ukraine’s most urgent needs as it seeks to fend off Russian attacks from the sea, a senior Defense Ministry official said on Thursday. Private.
Ukraine needs missiles to defend itself against Russia’s effective blockade of the Black Sea and protect the key port city of Odesa, the official said. Shooting provides a significantly stronger deterrent than Ukraine.
The United States will provide Ukraine with trucks specifically designed to launch missiles, a second senior Pentagon official said, speaking to reporters after the White House and Defense Department announced the aid package. New aid worth 1 billion USD. It could take months to deploy the truck-launched system and train the Ukrainian military to use it.
Other countries will supply the missiles, officials said. Denmark has committed to sending Harpoons to Ukraine.
The deterrent effect of anti-ship missiles against shore was evident in April when Ukraine sank the ship Moscow, the flagship of the Russian fleet, with a missile it had developed. Russia has since towed its ships away from the Ukrainian coast.
The $1 billion aid package includes $650 million from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which allows the government to purchase equipment for Ukraine, maintain, and train its troops. The $350 billion balance comes from the Pentagon’s existing arsenal of weapons and equipment. According to the Pentagon, they will be shipped to Ukraine under the president’s recall authority.
– Tom Vanden Brook
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group today, is bringing together dozens of global defense ministers trying to “identify and consider the next steps needed to help Ukraine. defend itself against Russian aggression,” the foreign ministry said. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister Hanna Malyar said Ukraine uses 5,000 to 6,000 shells a day – and Russia uses 10 times more.
“No matter how hard Ukraine tries, no matter how professional our military is, without the help of our Western partners we would not be able to win,” Malyar told a televised press conference. win this war”.
It appears that Russia will significantly increase its military budget to continue its slow but steady assault on the Donbas: British defense officials said Russia’s defense spending could increase by US$12 billion – coming close to a 20% increase in Russian President Putin’s defense budget.
The UK Ministry of Defense said that Russia is allowing its defense industrial base “to be gradually mobilized to meet the needs posed by the war in Ukraine. However, the industry could face difficulties. difficulty in meeting many of these requests, partly due to the effects of sanctions, and a lack of expertise.”
Global furniture giant Ikea said on Wednesday that it will sell four of its factories in Russia and liquidate inventory in 17 stores due to supply chain problems and the war in Ukraine. The company, which halted operations in Russia a week after the invasion, said it would drastically reduce its workforce. The Swedish-founded company said it would continue to pay employees until the end of August. Ikea also halted operations in Belarus, Russia’s neighbor and strongest ally.
“The war in Ukraine … is a human tragedy that continues to affect people and communities,” Ikea said in a statement on its website. “Businesses and supply chains around the world have been hit hard and we don’t see a return to business any time soon.”
Contribution: Associated Press