WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden announced nearly $3 billion in military aid — the biggest US package so far — on Kyiv’s Independence Day, as officials warned that Russia appeared to be planning to launch fresh attacks in coming days on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and government facilities.

“The United States of America is committed to supporting the people of Ukraine as they continue the fight to defend their sovereignty,” Biden said in a statement while announcing the package on Wednesday.

The new package uses funds from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) appropriated by Congress to allow the Biden administration to procure weapons from industry rather than taking weapons from existing US weapons stocks.

The US president hailed its resistance against Russian invasion and said the $2.98 billion for arms and other equipment aimed “to ensure Ukraine can continue to defend itself over the long term”. The approximately $2.98 billion in assistance “will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and radars to ensure it can continue to defend itself over the long term,” he said.

Norway offers micro drones; British PM pledges more military support to Kyiv on its Independence Day

The Pentagon said the new package would include six additional surface-to-air missile systems known as NASAMS, 24 counter-artillery radars, Puma drones, along with counter-drone systems known as VAMPIRE.

In total, the United States has committed more than $13.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration in January 2021.

Thousands of soldiers on both sides and thousands of civilians have died in the largest-scale battles seen in Europe since World War II.

“Six months of relentless attacks have only strengthened Ukrainians’ pride in themselves, in their country, and in their thirty-one years of independence,” Biden said.

‘Ukraine reborn’

Marking the 31 years of his country’s independence from the Soviet Union on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in his speech vowed to drive Russian forces out completely, saying that Ukraine was “reborn” when it was invaded six months ago.

The 44-year-old leader, speaking in front of Kyiv’s central monument to independence in his trademark combat fatigues, vowed to recapture occupied areas of eastern Ukraine as well as the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

“We will not sit down at the negotiating table out of fear, with a gun pointed at our heads. For us, the most terrible iron is not missiles, aircraft and tanks, but shackles. Not trenches, but fetters,” he said.

Boris visits Kyiv

Western countries offered Ukraine more military support, with Norway saying it and Britain would supply micro drones to help with target identification.

In Kyiv, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met President Zelenskiy on Wednesday to mark the country’s independence day, promising a further package of military support.

Johnson’s office said in a statement that the 54 million pound ($63.5 million) package would include 200 drones and loitering munitions to enable the Ukrainian military to better track and target invading Russian forces.

“The UK will continue to stand with our Ukrainian friends. I believe Ukraine can and will win this war,” Johnson, who has less than two weeks left as prime minister, said on Twitter.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2022

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