It comes as US officials warn of a potentially bloody new phase in the ongoing war, which is focused on the eastern regions of Ukraine as Russia withdraws its forces from the area around the capital, Kyiv.
“The Ukrainian military has used our weapons to devastating effect. As Russia prepares to intensify its offensive in the Donbass region, the United States will continue to provide Ukraine with capabilities to defend itself,” Biden said in a statement.
Biden provided details of the new announcement in a midday phone call with Zelensky that lasted about an hour.
“Ongoing dialogue with POTUS continued. Russian war crimes assessments. Discussed additional package of potential macro-financial defense aid. Agreed to strengthen sanctions,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter.
The Pentagon has announced that the United States is providing Ukraine with 11 Mi-17 helicopters, 300 Switchblade drones, 18 howitzers, and protective gear to protect against chemical attacks in the latest batch of White House-approved security assistance. . In addition, the new weapons package includes 200 M113 armored personnel carriers, 10 anti-artillery radars, 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 30,000 sets of armor and helmets.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the $800 million plan is intended to “meet the immediate Ukrainian needs of today’s battle” as Russian forces shift the focus of their offensive to eastern and southern Ukraine. He said the weapons would start being sent to Ukraine “as soon as possible,” noting that the previous security assistance was sent in less than four to five days after the security packages were approved.
As of Tuesday night, two sources said the helicopters were removed from the aid list, though Biden said in his statement that they were eventually included. Ukraine had initially asked the White House at the last minute not to send the helicopters, indicating that it wanted more time to assess whether they were useful. But during the phone call on Wednesday, Zelensky told Biden that his country needed them, so they were returned to the package, a source familiar with the matter said.
Kirby said the Mi-17 helicopters that were added to the package are for Afghanistan.
Previous parcel delivery was still in progress as new parcels were announced. The United States expects the remaining number of its first 100 Switchblade drone systems to arrive in Ukraine “within the next day,” according to a senior US defense official.
The official also said that another shipment of Javelin anti-tank missiles from the United States is expected to arrive in Ukraine within the next 24 hours. The official said during an off-camera news briefing on Wednesday that the United States also helped coordinate two air shipments from two other countries to Ukraine.
Switchblade drones are small, portable drones that carry warheads and explode on impact. The smallest model can reach a target of up to six miles, according to the company that produces the drones.
“The continued supply of weapons that the United States, its allies, and partners provided to Ukraine was critical to its continued war against Russian invasion. It helped ensure that Putin failed in his initial war aims of conquest and control of Ukraine. We cannot. Rest now. As I assured President Zelensky, the people will continue Stand by the brave Ukrainian people in their struggle for freedom,” Biden wrote in a statement.
The Pentagon was still working on how US forces would train the Ukrainians on some of the new systems they would send in their security assistance package.
“We’re still working through what those options will look like, what this training will look like, how many U.S. troops will be involved, where they will be, and for how long,” Kirby told a news conference. Briefing with reporters.
He said the United States would be able to train Ukrainians in the new systems “very, very quickly,” likely doing so by training a small number of Ukrainian forces who could then train others, including on Switchblade drones, some of which have already been dispatched. In a previous help package.
The new batch of money for Ukraine comes as the Pentagon hosted the chief executives of the military’s eight largest contractors on Wednesday to learn how to arm Ukraine faster, according to a reading of the confidential meeting.
The Pentagon sought a better understanding of the challenges defense contractors face in the rapid production of weapons and equipment that have proven critical to Ukraine’s defense, according to the reading.
On Tuesday, a defense industry official told CNN that major arms manufacturers are facing severe supply chain problems and a shortage of affordable labor. The official said manufacturing capacity could face additional challenges as Ukrainian contracts compete with increased U.S. defense spending for existing production.
Wednesday’s confidential roundtable was aimed in part at addressing these concerns in a series of ongoing discussions between the Pentagon and the largest arms manufacturers, including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Dynamics. But it mainly focused on the goal of “accelerating the production” of weapons for Ukraine, including systems that can be shipped quickly and used effectively with minimal training.
A senior defense official said on Wednesday that massive arms shipments to Ukraine did not affect the readiness of US forces. The official described it as “prudent” to have discussions “before it becomes a crisis issue for our preparedness.”
This story was updated with additional reports Wednesday.
CNN’s Oren Lieberman, Natasha Bertrand, Jeremy Herb, Michael Conti, Kaitlan Collins and Jim Scioto contributed to this report.
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