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President Joe Biden officially announced a new $700 million security package for the Ukraine on Wednesday amid Russian warnings he was ‘adding fuel to the fire’ by including medium-range rocket systems.
‘This new package will arm them with new capabilities and advanced weaponry, including HIMARS with battlefield munitions, to defend their territory from Russian advances,’ Biden said in a statement.
The lateset round of military aid comes as the Pentagon snapped back at the flak from the Kremlin, saying Russia didn’t get to vote on U.S. assistance and describing Moscow’s invasion as ‘off plan.’
Besides the missile system, the assistance also includes helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, tactical vehicles, and more. Ukraine has promised the United States it will not fire the weapons into Russian territory.
But the Kremlin fired back, accusing Washington of provocative behavior.
‘We believe that the United States is purposefully and diligently adding fuel to the fire,’ spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
When asked how Russia would respond if Ukraine used U.S.-supplied rockets to strike Russian territory, Peskov replied: ‘Let’s not talk about worst-case scenarios.’
He said Moscow didn’t trust Ukrainian reassurance the weapons would not reach Russian soil.
The United States is sending four HIMARS missile systems to Ukraine in the latest round of military aid
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said Russia is ‘far off plan’ in its invasion, which began a little more than three months ago
Meanwhile, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said Russia is ‘far off plan’ in its invasion, which began a little more than three months ago.
‘The Russians have not done particularly well. They’re certainly off plan. They had anticipated, you know taking over the country in a matter of days. At the outset, maybe 30 days. They are far off plan,’ he said at Wednesday’s press briefing at the Pentagon.
Biden said Monday that the U.S. would not send Ukraine ‘rocket systems that can strike into Russia.’
But the new military package includes medium-range rockets, which can travel about 45 miles. Those, of course, could be fired into Russia if close enough to the border.
Kahl said the U.S. was sending four HIMARS to Ukraine and the training would take about three weeks.
The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, is mounted on a truck and can carry a container with six rockets. In addition to the medium-range missile, it can fire longer-range rockets, the Army Tactical Missile System, which has a range of about 190 miles. But U.S. officials said that is not part of the plan.
Kahl said the Ukrainian government has assured the United States the missiles won’t be launched into Russian territory but, instead, be used to combat Russian forces in the Donbas region.
‘The formal assurance is that they won’t use these systems to target Russian territory,’ Kahl said. ‘We trust the Ukrainians will live up to those assurances.’
‘Ukraine is defending their territory, anything they’re doing on the territory of Ukraine is defensive,’ he noted.
Ukrainian officials have been asking for longer-range missile systems that can fire a barrage of rockets hundreds of miles away, in the hopes of turning the tide of the war. They wanted many more than four.
Kahl also brushed off the Russian pushback on the new aid.
‘Russia doesn’t get a veto over what we send to the Ukrainians,’ he said. ‘The Ukrainians didn’t start this war, the Russians did. The Ukrainians didn’t provoke this war, this war was unprovoked. The Russians can end this conflict anytime they want. If they are wary of escalation, all it takes is one man to say stop.’
The new assistance comes as Russian troops edged closer to seizing control of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk. The city is in the Donbas region on Russia’s border and capturing it would bring Moscow closure to seizing Ukraine’s east.
And an anchor on Russia state TV said World War III has already begun.
‘In the sense that a real war has started, World War Three. We are being forced to demilitarise, not just Ukraine but NATO as a whole,’ Russian state TV anchor Olga Skabeyeva said.
President Biden has said repeatedly he doesn’t want the Ukraine conflict to escalate into a third world war.
The United States has pledged $5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including approximately $4.5 billion since the Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
The U.S. is sending the missiles to Ukraine as Russia is pushing to take control of Dunbas region
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with Biden about sending some of the UK’s advanced missile systems to the Ukraine, Politico reported.
Johnson spoke with Biden about the transfer of the U.S.-made M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems on Wednesday morning. Then U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Thursday morning.
The U.S. must officially approve the move due to export regulations.
The M270 can strike targets roughly 50 miles away.