Pentagon unveils biggest ever aid package for Ukraine

Multibillion-dollar military package was unlocked after Congress approved additional spending for Kyiv

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said new military aid will let Ukraine 'create options for itself going forward'. AFP
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The Pentagon on Friday unveiled its biggest assistance package yet for Kyiv, unlocking $6 billion for Patriot missiles, ammunition and other weaponry for the beleaguered Ukrainian military.

The aid is the second package announced in three days, after President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed into law a long-delayed $95 billion foreign aid bill that includes $61 billion for Ukraine.

“This is the largest security assistance package we've committed to date,” Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters as he announced the new $6 billion package.

“Ukraine will have the ability to not only hold its own, but regenerate additional capability and then create options for itself going forward.”

The US is a key military backer for Ukraine and has provided more than $44 billion in security assistance since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Mr Austin said the new package would include air defence interceptors, counter-drone systems, artillery shells and maintenance and sustainment support.

The smaller, $1 billion package unveiled on Wednesday included a longer-range version of a tactical ballistic missile system known as ATACMS, which Ukraine has long desired in a push to strike deeper into occupied territory.

Mr Austin spoke after leading a virtual meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who discussed the need for Patriot missiles at the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, which comprises about 50 nations supporting Ukraine.

Mr Austin said that now Ukraine no longer needs to ration its ammunition, a key factor in how well it can defend against Russia's manpower.

“They are doing some additional things to mobilise additional troops to replenish their ranks. I think all of those things are going to come together to put them in a much better place – but it will take a little time,” Mr Austin said.

Mr Biden first requested the additional $61 billion for Ukraine in October but Republicans refused to consider it, wary of handing the President an election year legislative win and amid pressure from far-right Republicans who appear sympathetic towards Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Updated: April 26, 2024, 6:41 PM