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US preparing $275 million weapons package for Ukraine as Russian attack kills seven in Kharkiv

The latest military aid package for Ukraine includes 155mm artillery shells, precision aerial munitions and ground vehicles, as Kyiv faces a shortage of ammunition to counter Russian forces. Moscow launched 15 missiles that killed seven people in Kharkiv as its troops are gaining on the battlefield.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: May 24, 2024 10:29 IST
Russia Ukraine war, Kharkiv
Image Source : REUTERS A Police bomb squad member works at the site of a Russian air strike on Thursday.

Washington: The United States is preparing a $275 million military aid package for Ukraine, which includes 155mm artillery shells, precision aerial munitions and ground vehicles, three US officials told Reuters on Thursday. This comes as Ukraine faces a shortage of weapons and ammunition as Russian forces have pounded the northeastern city of Kharkiv for months and launched a ground assault into the surrounding region on May 10, which is reportedly stalled for now.

The new weapons package could be announced by Friday and will utilise Presidential Drawdown Authority, which authorises the president to transfer articles and services from US stocks without specific congressional approval during an emergency, said the officials on condition of anonymity. This marks the fourth installment of military assistance for Ukraine since the passing of a long-awaited foreign aid bill by Congress last month.

As a part of the $95 billion aid bills, Congress authorized $60.8 billion worth of various forms of aid to Ukraine, including $8 billion worth of presidential drawdown authority items. While the package mainly includes munitions, it also includes vehicles that are designed to recover disabled tanks and other heavy equipment from the battlefield, a sign that the US expects attacks and equipment losses to continue.

Russian forces making 'buffer zone' in Kharkiv

With the latest allocation, the total amount of military assistance provided by Washington to Ukraine since the outbreak of the conflict in February 2022 reaches almost $51 billion. Additionally, the US has allocated $6 billion through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, facilitating longer-term contracts with the defence industry.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russian forces advancing in Ukraine's northeast are carving out a "buffer zone" to protect Russia from attacks and said the West was "sick in the head" if it thought it could dictate terms to Moscow. The announcement alarmed Kyiv as its top commander warned of "heavy battles" looming on the war's new front after Putin's remarks.

Speaking to reporters on a state visit to China, Putin said Russian troops were advancing to plan after repeated deadly Ukrainian strikes on the Belgorod region of Russia. "This is their (Ukraine's) fault because they shelled and continue, unfortunately, to shell residential neighbourhoods in the border areas, including Belgorod," Putin said.

Seven killed in Russian missile attack on Kharkiv

Meanwhile, Russia pounded Kharkiv with missiles on Thursday, killing seven people in a printing house, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called out his western allies for not providing enough military support to rebuff Russian attacks. According to authorities, Russia launched 15 missiles at the city and the nearby town of Liubotyn, targeting mostly transport infrastructure and a large printing house in Kharkiv where around 50 people were located at the time of the strike.

Another 28 people were wounded in the attacks, officials said. The regional prosecutor's office said the missiles were launched from Russia's neighbouring Belgorod region, which Russian forces used to launch their May 10 incursion. The state railway company said six of its workers had also been wounded after several of its facilities in Kharkiv and the region came under attack.

Russia also dropped guided bombs on the regional town of Derhachi, damaging private houses and injuring at least another 13 people, officials said. Zelenskyy blamed Ukraine's international partners for not providing enough air defence systems or allowing Ukraine to use Western-provided weapons to strike missile launchers inside Russia.

"This weakness is not our weakness, but that of the world's, which for the third year already has not dared to deal with the terrorists exactly as they deserve," he said. Kyiv's outmanned and outgunned forces have struggled to fend off fierce Russian assaults along multiple parts of a more than 1,000-kilometre (620 mile) front line.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Putin says Russian forces creating 'buffer zone' in Ukraine's Kharkiv, Kyiv braces for more attacks


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