Some 20 countries offered Ukraine new security assistance packages to fight the invading Russian forces at an allies meeting on Monday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced.
At their second meeting, nearly four dozen countries and organizations that formed the Ukraine Defense Contact Group gathered online to talk about helping Ukraine, and 20 countries pledged weapons, ammunition and other supplies to support Kiev.
The group was briefed by Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov about the current situation of the three-month-old war, in which the two sides are fighting along a long front line over territory Russia has occupied in eastern and southern Ukraine.
“Today, together with Secretary Reznikov and his team, we have gained a sharper and shared understanding of Ukraine’s priority requirements and the situation on the battlefield,” Austin said.
“Many countries are donating much-needed artillery ammunition, coastal defense systems and tanks and other armored vehicles,” he said.
Others, he added, offer training for the Ukrainian military.
He said Denmark has committed to sending a Harpoon anti-ship missile system and that the Czech Republic is offering attack helicopters, tanks and missile systems.
Harpoons are cruise missiles that can fly over the sea’s surface to target ships up to 300 kilometers offshore, depending on the type.
Harpoons are usually mounted on board ships or aircraft, but Denmark is the only country to have purchased land-based coastal protection systems.
The Danish battery is said to add a layer of protection to the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa, which is believed to be threatened by a Russian invasion from the sea.
They could also potentially reach the port of Sevastopol, where part of the Russian Black Sea fleet is stationed.
– Long Range Missiles –
Austin declined to give details of what is included in a new $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, amid speculation it could involve high-precision long-range missiles that could be used to hit Russian territory.
Ukraine has asked the United States for mobile batteries for long-range missiles, the M270 MLRS and the M142 Himars.
They can launch multiple missiles simultaneously with a range of up to 187 miles, eight times or more the distance of artillery in the field.
That could enable Ukrainian forces to target targets far behind Russian lines with great precision.
It could also allow them to hit targets well within Russia, though it’s unclear if that’s their intention.
Since the arms donor group’s first meeting at a US base in Germany four weeks ago, Austin said, “the momentum of donations and deliveries has been excellent.”
He said Ukraine’s needs have not changed much since the last meeting and that the war is still powered by artillery, supported by tanks, drones and other equipment.
“The combat is really shaped by artillery at this stage and we’ve seen some serious exchanges of artillery fire in recent weeks,” Austin said.
“Everyone here understands the stakes of this war and they extend far beyond Europe,” he added.
“Russia’s aggression is an affront to the rules-based international order.”
The Ukraine Defense Contact Group will meet in person at the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels on June 15, Austin said.
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