Biden announces new $1 billion in weapons for Ukraine, Kyiv seeks more heavy arms

·3-min read
U.S. President Biden returns to the White House in Washington

By Mike Stone, Patricia Zengerle and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a fresh U.S. infusion of $1 billion in weapons for Ukraine that includes anti-ship rocket systems, artillery rockets, howitzers and ammunition.

In a phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Biden said he told the embattled leader about the new weaponry.

"The United States is providing another $1 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including additional artillery and coastal defense weapons, as well as ammunition for the artillery and advanced rocket systems," Biden said in a statement after the 41-minute call.

The president also announced an additional $225 million in humanitarian assistance to help people in Ukraine, including by supplying safe drinking water, critical medical supplies and healthcare, food, shelter, and cash for families to purchase essential items.

The latest weapons packages for Ukraine include 18 howitzers, 36,000 rounds of ammunition for them, two Harpoon coastal defense systems, artillery rockets, secure radios, thousands of night vision devices and funding for training, the Pentagon said.

In Kyiv, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had talked to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to thank him for the "crucial military assistance" from the United States.

"(I) emphasized that we urgently need more heavy weapons delivered more regularly," he said on Twitter.

The aid packages, which come as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is meeting with allies in Brussels, were split into two categories: transfer of excess defense articles from U.S. stocks and other weapons being funded by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), a separate congressionally authorized program.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia on Wednesday accused Western countries of "fighting a proxy war with Russia," telling reporters: "I would like to say to the Western countries supplying weaponry to Ukraine – the blood of civilians is on your hands."

Ukraine is pressing the United States and other Western nations for speedy deliveries of weapons in the face of increased pressure from Russian forces in the eastern Donbas region.

Oleksandra Ustinova, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, told reporters at an event organized by the German Marshall Fund: "We need all these weapons to be concentrated in a moment to defeat the Russians, not just keep coming every two or three weeks."

In May, the Biden administration announced a plan to give Ukraine M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems after receiving assurances from Kyiv that it would not use them to hit targets inside Russian territory. Biden imposed the condition to try to avoid escalating the Ukraine war.

The rocket artillery in this aid package would have the same range as previous U.S. rocket shipments and is funded using Presidential Drawdown Authority, or PDA, in which the president can authorize the transfer of articles and services from U.S. stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency, said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

For the first time, the United States is sending ground-based Harpoon launchers. In May, Reuters reported the U.S. was working on potential solutions that included pulling a launcher off of a U.S. ship to help provide Harpoon missile launch capability to Ukraine.

Harpoons made by Boeing Co cost about $1.5 million per missile, according to experts and industry executives.

(Reporting by Mike Stone, Patricia Zengerle, Humeyra Pamuk and Steve Holland in Washington, Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Idrees Ali in Brussels and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Nick Zieminski)

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