The United States and Germany have pledged to equip Ukraine with some of the advanced weapons it has long wanted to shoot down planes and knock down artillery as Russian forces approach the capture of a key city in the east. .
Germany said it would supply Ukraine with upgraded anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems, while the United States announced it would provide four sophisticated medium-range rocket and ammunition systems.
The United States is trying to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russians without triggering a wider war in Europe. The Pentagon said it had received assurances that Ukraine would not fire new rockets into Russian territory.
The US is supplying the Ukrainian Army with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) as part of a new military aid package. (Tony Overman / The Olympian via AP, file) (AP)
The Kremlin accused the US of “pouring fuel into the fire”.
Western weapons have been instrumental in Ukraine’s success in preventing the much larger and better-equipped Russian army, thwarting its efforts to storm the capital and forcing Moscow to focus on industrial region of Donbas, to the east.
But as Russia bombed cities in its progressive advance east, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly called for more and better weapons and accused the West of moving too slowly.
The new weapons could help Ukraine establish and maintain new lines of defense in the east by revolting Russian artillery pieces that have been hitting towns and cities and limiting Russian airstrikes.
New advanced weapons from the United States and Germany will help Ukraine shoot down Russian planes like these attack helicopters. (AP)
Military analysts say Russia hopes to invade the Donbas before any weapons that could change course arrive. It will take at least three weeks to bring U.S. precision weapons and trained troops to the battlefield, the Pentagon said.
But U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Colin Kahl said he believes they will arrive in time to make a difference in the fight.
Rocket systems are part of a new $ 700 million ($ 975 million) security assistance package for Ukraine that also includes helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, radars, tactical vehicles, spare parts and much more.
The rockets have a range of about 80 km and are very mobile. Ukraine had successfully launched rockets with a range of up to 300 km.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow did not trust assurances that Ukraine would not fire on Russian territory. “We believe the U.S. is deliberately and diligently pouring fuel into the fire,” he said.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that Ukraine’s push for new Western weapons runs the risk of escalating the war. (AP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Ukraine’s push for more weapons was a “direct provocation aimed at luring the West into the fight.” He warned that multiple rocket launchers would increase the risk of an extended conflict.
“Sensible Western politicians understand these risks well,” he said.
Germany’s promise of IRIS-T air defense systems would mark the first delivery of long-range air defense weapons to Ukraine since the start of the war. Earlier deliveries of portable air-to-shoulder missiles have bolstered the Ukrainian army’s ability to shoot down helicopters and other low-flying aircraft, but have not given it enough scope to challenge Russia’s air superiority.
Germany has received special criticism, both at home and from allies abroad, for not doing enough. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told lawmakers that IRIS-T surface-to-air missiles are the country’s most modern air defense system.
Ukrainian forces fight for control of key city in eastern Sievierodonetsk (Getty)
Weapons announcements came when a regional governor said Russian forces now control 80 percent of Sievierodonetsk, a city that is key to Moscow’s efforts to complete the capture of the Donbas, where Ukrainian forces and separatists backed by Russia they have fought for years and where the separatists had expanses of territory even before the invasion.
Deadly risk faced by Ukrainians returning home
The only other city in Luhansk that the Russians have not yet captured, Lysychansk, is still fully under Ukrainian control, he said, but it is likely to be next.