Ukraine ammunition shortage worsens as US military aid dries up, Pentagon says

Washington has been unable to provide additional military assistance to Kyiv since the end of last year

Ukrainian forces fire a rocket near the Kherson region in November 2022. EPA
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Ukrainian troops are running out of ammunition and the halt in US aid for Kyiv is affecting the fight against Russia's invasion, a top Pentagon official said on Tuesday.

The US has been unable to provide additional military assistance to Ukraine since the end of last year, with Republicans blocking additional spending unless President Joe Biden's administration also promises to address security on the US-Mexico border.

While some weapons and ammunition that were previously contracted are still being provided by the US, support for the Ukrainian military has largely dried up, said Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs.

“We have heard reports from the Ukrainian government that they have concerns from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence and general staff that they are concerned that they believe that units do not have the stocks and stories of ammunition that they require,” Dr Wallander told reporters.

Kyiv has “reported that the changed pace and volume of [US combat aid] packages in the fall did affect their planning and their operations”.

“They have concerns that their frontline troops are reporting to their leadership that they feel that they are constrained and they're asking for more ammunition,” she added.

Defence Department Press Secretary Maj Gen Pat Ryder later said the lack of funding had forced the Pentagon to stop donating any of its own military equipment to Kyiv to ensure US military readiness.

"This, of course, prevents us from meeting Ukraine's most urgent battlefield needs, to include things like artillery rounds, anti-tank weapons, air defence interceptors," he said.

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Both sides in the brutal war of attrition are struggling to secure sufficient ammunition. Russia is being provided with artillery shells, drones and other materiel by North Korea and Iran, the US says.

Dr Wallander spoke to reporters following a monthly meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, hosted by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in his first appearance since his release from hospital this month.

The Pentagon chief highlighted a $250 million military assistance package that Washington announced last month, but did not detail any new American aid.

He asked other countries to "dig deep" to provide Ukraine with more ground-based air defence systems and interceptors.

Dr Wallander also said the US hopes Ukraine will have an “initial operating capability” for its western-backed F-16 fighter programme this year.

US senators are racing to find support for a negotiated compromise that could revise US border policy and open the door for Republican votes to replenish US wartime aid for Ukraine.

“American aid, which has been so crucial for helping our Ukrainian friends hold the line, has been exhausted,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

“The only way to provide more aid is through congressional action. And it's essential that Congress act, because as Ukraine's supplies run low, Russia's supplies are replenishing.”

Ellie Sennett contributed to this report

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