US to send advanced rocket systems to Ukraine as Russia tightens control of Sievierodonetsk

Joe Biden has confirmed that he will send more advanced rocket systems to Kyiv, a critical weapon that Ukrainian leaders have been calling for as they fight to curb Russian progress in the Donbas region.

Medium-range high-mobility artillery rocket systems are part of a new $ 700 million section of security assistance for Ukraine from the United States that will include helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapons systems, vehicles tactics, spare parts and more, according to two senior administrations. officials. The weapons package will be officially unveiled on Wednesday.

In a guest essay in the New York Times published on Tuesday, Biden said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine will end through diplomacy, but that the United States must provide important weapons and ammunition to give Ukraine maximum power at the negotiating table. .

“That is why I have decided to provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket and ammunition systems that will allow them to hit key targets more accurately on the battlefield of Ukraine,” Biden wrote.

The package also includes ammunition, counter-fire radars, various air surveillance radars, additional Javelin anti-tank missiles, as well as anti-armor weapons, officials said.

The move comes after Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk province, said Russian forces had taken control of most of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk amid heavy fighting.

Gaidai reiterated calls for residents to stay in the shelters after saying a Russian air strike hit a nitric acid tank, risking the release of toxic fumes. In a post to the Telegram app he added a photograph of a large pink cloud over residential buildings.

The mayor of the city, Oleksandr Striuk, said the artillery bombardment was threatening the lives of thousands of civilians still taking refuge in the ruined city, with impossible evacuations. The street fight is underway, he said, adding: “The situation is very serious and the city is being ruthlessly destroyed block by block.”

Striuk estimated that about 13,000 people remained in the city out of a population of about 100,000 before the war, but said it was impossible to keep track of civilian casualties amid the 24-hour bombing.

He said more than 1,500 people in the city who had died of various causes had been buried since the war began in February.

Sievierodonetsk is important for Russian efforts to capture Donbas before more Western weapons arrive. The city, located 90 miles (145 km) south of the Russian border, is located in an area that is the last pocket under the control of the Ukrainian government in the Luhansk region of Donbas.

The US decision on rocket systems seeks to strike a balance between the desire to help Ukraine fight Russian artillery bombings without providing weapons that will allow Ukraine to hit targets inside Russia and trigger an escalation of war.

Biden said on Monday that the US would not send “rocket systems that could attack Russia” to Ukraine. Any weapons system can fire on Russia if it is close enough to the border, but the aid package to be unveiled on Wednesday would send what the United States considers medium-range rockets, which can generally travel about 70 km (45 miles). ) officials said.

The US High Mobility Artillery (HIMARS) rocket system to be sent to the battlefields of Ukraine. Photo: Toms Kalniņš / EPA

Ukrainians have assured US officials that they will not fire rockets on Russian territory, according to senior government officials. Biden, in his Times essay, added: “We are not encouraging or allowing Ukraine to go beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.”

sieverodonetsk mapsieverodonetsk map

The U.S. agreement is the 11th package approved so far and will be the first to take advantage of the $ 40 billion in security and financial assistance recently approved by Congress. Rocket systems would be part of the Pentagon’s retreat authority, so they would involve taking weapons from the U.S. inventory and introducing them quickly to Ukraine. Ukrainian troops would also need training on the new systems, which could take a week or two.

Officials said the plan was to send to Ukraine the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which is mounted on a truck and can carry a six-rocket container. The system can launch a medium-range rocket, which is the current plan, but it is also capable of firing a longer-range missile, the Army Tactical Missile System, which has a range of about 190 miles (300 km). ).

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the West to send multiple rocket launch systems. The rockets have a longer range than the shell artillery systems the U.S. has already provided. They would allow Ukrainian forces to attack Russian troops from a distance outside the range of Russian artillery.

“We are fighting for Ukraine to receive all the weapons needed to change the nature of the fighting and to start moving faster and more confidently towards the expulsion of the occupiers,” Zelenskiy said in a recent speech.

Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned the West not to send more firepower to Ukraine. The Kremlin said Putin held an 80-minute phone call with leaders in France and Germany on Saturday warning against continued transfers of Western weapons.

With the Associated Press

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