The US is sending missile systems to Ukraine to stop the Russian advance

WASHINGTON – The US on Wednesday unveiled a new $700 million package of advanced weapons for Ukraine in an urgent effort to prevent Russia from seizing the last tracts of land in the Donbass region. But the most advanced missile systems will take at least three weeks to reach the battlefront, raising the question of whether they will arrive in time to halt Russia’s slow but steady advance.

To broadcast the Biden administration’s decision four medium-range missile systems came after weeks of debates over whether the precision-guided weapons would provoke a strong military response from Russian President Vladimir Putin. It indicated that the US believes it has focused on which arms shipments are worth the risk.

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“We have no interest in the conflict in Ukraine escalating into a larger conflict or developing into World War III. So that’s what we thought of,” said Colin Kahl, Secretary of Defense. “But at the same time, Russia does not get a veto on what we send to the Ukrainians.”

Still, Kahl and other US officials said Ukrainian leaders had promised the missiles would only be used to defend their nation.

“The Ukrainians have assured us that they will not use these systems against targets on Russian territory,” Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said on Wednesday. “There is a strong bond of trust between Ukraine and the United States.”

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that the US was “deliberately and diligently adding fuel to the fire.” He added that Russia does not trust Kiev’s assurances that US-supplied multiple rocket launch systems will not be used for attacks.

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“To trust (someone) one must have experience of situations where such promises have been kept. Unfortunately, there is no such experience,” said Peskov.

The need to train Ukrainian troops on the HIMARS system for about three weeks before they can go into battle raises concerns that Russia will have a window to capture key territory to the east.

“It’s a tough fight,” said Kahl. “We believe these additional capabilities will arrive in a relevant time frame and will allow Ukrainians to target very precisely the types of things they need for the current fight.”

The Pentagon would not say how many missiles it will supply to Ukraine, only that it will send four of the truck-mounted HIMARS systems. The trucks each carry a container with six precision-guided missiles that can travel about 70 kilometers.

The expectation is that Ukraine can use the missiles in Donbass, where they could intercept Russian artillery as well as take out Russian positions in cities where heavy fighting is taking place, like Sievierodonetsk.

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Sievierodonetsk is important to the Russian effort to capture the Donbass before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defenses. The city, which is 145 kilometers south of the Russian border, is in what is the last island controlled by the Ukrainian government in the Luhansk region of Donbass.

President Joe Biden said in an essay in The New York Times: “We do not encourage or enable Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.”

The package announced Wednesday is the 11th to have been approved so far and will be the first to be tapped the $40 billion in security and economic aid recently passed by Congress. It includes a variety of weapons and equipment ranging from helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems and radars to tactical vehicles, artillery shells and spare parts.

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The weapons will come from the Pentagon’s drawdown agency, so they would have to be taken from US inventory. Kahl said the HIMARS systems have already been sent to Europe and officials said training could begin this week.

Since the war began in February, the US and its allies have tried to walk a fine line: sending Ukraine weapons it needs to hold off Russia, but refraining from providing aid that will spark a broader conflict that could spread to other parts of Europe.

Over time, however, the US and its allies have stepped up weaponry for Ukraine as combat has shifted from Russia’s campaign to capture the capital Kyiv and other areas to closer contact skirmishes around small pieces of land in Ukraine’s east and south.

To this end, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked the West to send multiple missile systems as soon as possible to help stop Russia’s demolition of cities in Donbass. The missiles have a longer range than the howitzer artillery systems that the US has provided to Ukraine. They would allow Ukrainian forces to attack Russian troops from a distance beyond the range of Russian artillery systems.

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“We are fighting for Ukraine to be equipped with all the weapons needed to change the nature of the fighting and move faster and more confidently towards the expulsion of the occupiers,” Zelenskyy said in a recent speech.

Ukraine needs multiple missile systems, said Philip Breedlove, a retired US Air Force general who was NATO’s top commander from 2013 to 2016.

“These are very important skills that we don’t have yet. And not only do they need them, but they’ve been very vocal about wanting them,” Breedlove said. “We need to get serious about supplying this army so it can do what the world is asking of it: fight alone on the battlefield against a world superpower.”

Russia has been making incremental advances in the Donbass as it seeks to take over the remaining parts of the region not yet controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

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AP diplomatic writer Matthew Lee, AP writer Aamer Madhani, and AP broadcast reporter Sagar Meghani contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/01/us-sends-rocket-systems-to-ukraine-to-stall-russian-advance/ The US is sending missile systems to Ukraine to stop the Russian advance

Sarah Y. Kim

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