LALITA S. BALDOR and MATTHEW LEE
WASHINGTON (AP) — Six months after Russia invaded Ukraine, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he is sending $2.98 billion in new military aid to Ukraine that will keep its forces fighting for years to come.
In a statement, Biden said the aid would allow Ukraine to purchase air defense systems, artillery systems and ammunition, drones and other equipment “to ensure that it can continue to defend itself in the long term.”
The announcement came as Ukraine celebrates its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
“I know this Independence Day is bittersweet for many Ukrainians, as thousands have been killed or injured, millions have been forced from their homes, and so many more have fallen victim to Russian atrocities and attacks,” Biden said. “But six months of merciless attacks only strengthened the pride of Ukrainians for themselves, for their country and for thirty-one years of independence.”
The aid package is provided within the framework of the Initiative to promote the security of Ukraine. Officials said this would include money for small hand-held Puma drones, long-range Scan Eagle surveillance drones launched by catapult and, for the first time, the UK’s Vampire drone system, which can be launched from ships. . Several officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the aid before its public release.
As Russia’s war against Ukraine drags on, U.S. security assistance is moving into a longer-term campaign that is also likely to keep more U.S. military troops in Europe in the future, U.S. officials said.
Unlike most previous packages, the new funding is largely aimed at helping Ukraine secure its defense posture in the medium to long term, according to officials familiar with the matter. Earlier deliveries, most of which were made under the authority of the president, focused on Ukraine’s more immediate needs for weapons and ammunition and included materials that the Pentagon already has in stock and can be shipped on short notice.
In addition to providing longer-term aid that Ukraine can use for potential future defense needs, the new package is intended to reassure Ukrainian officials that the United States intends to continue its support, regardless of the day-to-day conflict. .
“The United States of America is committed to supporting the people of Ukraine, who continue to fight for the protection of their sovereignty,” Biden said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg signaled the increased focus on Tuesday as he reaffirmed the alliance’s support for the conflict-torn country.
“Winter is coming and it’s going to be tough and what we’re seeing now is a brutal war of attrition. It is both a battle of wills and a battle of logistics. Therefore, we must maintain our support for Ukraine in the long term, so that Ukraine wins as a sovereign, independent state,” Stoltenberg said, speaking at a virtual conference on Crimea organized by Ukraine.
Half a year after the Russian invasion, the war has slowed as both sides exchange combat strikes and small offensives in the east and south. Both sides saw thousands of soldiers killed and wounded, as Russian bombardment of cities killed countless civilians.
There are fears that Russia will increase attacks on civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days due to the holiday marking Ukraine’s 1991 independence from the Soviet Union and the six-month anniversary of the invasion.
On Monday, the US Embassy in Ukraine and the State Department issued a new security alert for Ukraine, which repeated the call for Americans to leave the country because of the danger.
“Given Russia’s track record in Ukraine, we are concerned about the continued threat Russian strikes pose to the civilian population and civilian infrastructure,” the statement said.
Other NATO allies are also marking Independence Day with new aid announcements.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country is providing more than 500 million euros (almost $500 million) in aid, including powerful anti-aircraft systems. The aid will include missile launchers, ammunition, anti-drone equipment, a dozen armored recovery vehicles and three additional IRIS-T long-range air defense systems, according to the German news agency dpa.
Funding still needs to be approved by parliament, and part of it won’t be delivered until next year.
And Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $3.85 million for two projects in Ukraine through the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program. It includes about $2.9 million in funding for the ongoing development of Ukraine’s national police and other emergency services, and about $950,000 in assistance to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
To date, the U.S. has provided Ukraine with about $13.6 billion in military aid since the beginning of the Biden administration, including 19 weapons packages taken directly from Defense Department warehouses since August 2021.
US defense leaders are also considering plans to expand the training of Ukrainian troops outside their country, as well as troops on the eastern and southern flanks of Europe, which feel most threatened by Russian aggression.
Associated Press writer Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.