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Ukraine to receive customized combat drones from US

The US will send its newest Phoenix Ghost combat drones to Ukraine, the Pentagon announced on Thursday. NATO countries have been increasingly arming Kiev after Russia launched a military offensive against the country in late February.

The drone was “rapidly developed by the Air Force in response specifically to Ukrainian requirements,” US Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters at a regular press briefing. “In discussions with the Ukrainians about their requirements, we believed that this particular system would very nicely suit their needs, particularly in eastern Ukraine.”

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Kirby said the Phoenix Ghost is somewhat like the Switchblade kamikaze drones that Washington had already promised to Kiev. The drone is “designed for tactical operations,” and can be used for surveillance, but “its principal focus is attack,” the spokesman said.

“We see the benefit right now – in the moment – for Ukraine to use it. And so we’re going to provide some of them.”

AEVEX Aerospace, the California-based company behind the project, refused to comment on Kirby’s statement to the media.

The US and its allies under NATO have been supplying Ukraine with various weapons, ranging from anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile systems to armored vehicles. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Smyhal traveled to the US on Thursday, where he met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Austin reiterated Washington’s “sheer determination” to help Kiev fight off the Russian offensive. The statement came after the US announced an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine.

Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

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