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Pentagon plans ‘years’ of military aid to Ukraine

President Joe Biden’s administration has announced $400 million in new weapons aid to Ukraine, including four additional HIMARS rocket systems, and is making plans to keep supplying such hardware to Kiev for “months and years ahead.”

A Pentagon official spoke of planning efforts to meet Kiev’s short- and long-term weaponry needs in a briefing to reporters on Friday. The latest round of aid will be provided under Biden’s drawdown authority, meaning it won’t require congressional approval, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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The new batch of HIMARS units follows previous deliveries of eight such rocket systems. HIMARS stands for High Mobility Aircraft Rocket System, a precision artillery launcher that can hit targets 80 kilometers away. The new shipments, which represent Washington’s 15th military aid package for Ukraine since last August, will also include 1,000 rounds of advanced 155mm Howitzer shells. The new ammunition has greater precision than standard artillery rounds and will enhance Ukraine’s ability to target Russian assets, the Pentagon said.

READ MORE: US believes it’s not yet time for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine

“What we see now, as the United States surged HIMARS and the missiles for those systems, is that Ukraine has now been successfully striking Russian locations in Ukraine, deeper behind the front lines and disrupting Russia’s ability to conduct that artillery operation,” the official said.

Russian forces destroyed two US-supplied HIMARS systems and ammunition depots on Wednesday, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. Some of the foreign weapons supplied to Ukraine have failed to reach their destination and wound up on black markets overseas, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said earlier this week.

The Pentagon official claimed that all of the HIMARS units previously shipped to Ukraine have been accounted for. As for concerns raised by members of Congress over how well the US monitors the weapons it gives to Kiev, the official said, “We are tracking that very carefully, and we are very mindful of our duties and obligations to maintain awareness of the capabilities we’re providing to Ukraine.”

Russian forces have reportedly made strong gains in Donbass, including taking full control of the Lugansk People’s Republic. Kiev needs more heavy weapons, including howitzers and HIMARS, to counter Russia’s “scorched-earth tactics,” said Andrey Yermak, chief of staff for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Despite Russia’s recent successes on the battlefield, the Pentagon said those gains have been hard-fought and costly, portending a protracted conflict. “We don’t see this at all as Russia winning this battle,” the official said. “Certainly, they’re not winning it related to their initial objectives.”

Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”

READ MORE: Russia says it destroyed American HIMARS in Ukraine

In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.

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