Biden announces $700 million in new military aid to Ukraine

WASHINGTON, June 1 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a new $700 million weapons package for Ukraine that will include high-mobility artillery rocket systems, capable of accurately targeting targets as far away as 80 km (50 miles).

“The United States will stand with our Ukrainian partners and continue to provide Ukraine with weapons and equipment to defend itself,” Biden said in a statement.

Biden announced plans to equip Ukraine with precision HIMARS 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 an escalation of war in Ukraine.

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“The Ukrainians have given us assurances that they will not use these systems against targets on Russian territory,” State Secretary Antony Blinken said during a meeting with NATO Secretary General , Jens Stoltenberg.

A senior Defense Department official, briefing Pentagon reporters, said the United States would initially send four HIMARS systems to Ukraine.

It will take about three weeks to train Ukrainian forces to use the new systems, the official said.

“No system is going to transform war. It’s a battle of national will … It’s a tough, tough conflict,” Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters.

In a New York Times opinion piece published on Tuesday, Biden said the new weapons package will help Ukraine on the battlefield “and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.”

Ukraine has been researching multiple rocket launch systems (MLRS) such as the M270 and M142 HIMARS – both made by Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) – to provide more firepower at longer ranges to hit concentrations of Russian troops and stockpiles of weapons in the rear of Russia.

Kahl said the Pentagon held back on providing those weapons after determining that shorter-range rockets should suffice.

“We don’t feel they need systems that span hundreds and hundreds of miles for the current fight,” he said.

The longer-range rockets that Ukraine was looking for could have had a range of 300 miles – far beyond howitzers. The rockets that the Biden administration has agreed to have a shorter range than the Soviet-era rockets that Ukraine currently has in short supply.

Jonathan Finer, White House deputy national security adviser, said earlier that Washington believed the HIMARS system would meet Kyiv’s needs.

“It’s a defensive conflict that the Ukrainians are fighting. Russian forces are on their territory,” Finer said in an interview with CNN.

There are important targets the Ukrainians cannot hit with the weapons they currently have, Finer said, and the rocket system will make a big difference in the conflict in the southeast of the country, where Russian forces are currently concentrated.

Besides the rockets, the new set includes ammunition, counterfire radars, a number of air surveillance radars, additional Javelin anti-tank missiles, as well as anti-armour weapons, officials said. Read more

“Thank you allies. Defeating Russia together,” tweeted Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, shortly after Biden’s announcement.

Russia said the United States was adding fuel to the fire by supplying Ukraine with advanced rockets. Finer said Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin directly and publicly of the consequences of a possible invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re doing exactly what we said we would do,” Finer said. “Russia has taken it upon itself by launching an invasion into a sovereign country from its territory.”

Thousands of people have been killed in Ukraine and millions more displaced since the February 24 Russian invasion, which Moscow calls a special military operation to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Read more

As the United States and its allies supply Ukraine with increasingly sophisticated weapons, Washington has been in talks with Kyiv about the danger of escalation if it strikes deep inside Russia, Reuters has been told. US and diplomatic officials.

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Reporting by Steve Holland, Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali, Mike Stone, Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis, Doina Chiacu and David Ljunggren; Editing by Alison Williams, Angus MacSwan and Chizu Nomiyama

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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