WASHINGTON, Nov 11 (AP): The US will send $400 million more in military aid to Ukraine, US officials announced on Thursday, amid concerns that financial assistance for the war against Russia could decline if Republicans take control of Congress.
The aid comes as the vote counting from Tuesday’s election continues, with Republicans inching closer to a narrow House majority and with control of the Senate hinging on tight races in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia.
According to the Pentagon, the aid package will contain large amounts of ammunition and, for the first time, four highly mobile Avenger air defense systems. Include is ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, which Ukraine has been successfully using in its counteroffensive against Russia.
There also will be Stinger missiles for the Avenger system, missiles for the Hawk surface-to-air anti-aircraft system, 10,000 mortar rounds, thousands of artillery rounds for howitzers, 400 grenade launchers, 100 Humvees, cold weather gear and 20 million rounds of ammunition for smaller, individual guns and rifles.
At the White House, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the new aid package would include important air defense contributions.
“This increased air defense will be critical for Ukraine as Russia continues to use cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones to attack critical civilian infrastructure,” Sullivan said.
Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told reporters the new addition of short-range Avenger systems will help Ukraine protect its troops against lethal drones, cruise missiles and attacks from helicopters. She said she did not know when the systems will get to Ukraine or how long the training will take.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily video address late Thursday the new U.S. air defense systems are “just what we needed, what we asked for.”
The additional ammunition and air defense capabilities come as Russian troops began pulling out of the key Ukrainian city of Kherson, in a widening retreat that could mark a turning point in the war. Kherson is the only provincial capital that Moscow captured, and the Russian withdrawal could allow Ukraine to win back territory in the south that it had lost. Ukrainian officials acknowledged that Moscow’s forces had no choice but to flee Kherson but remained cautious, fearing an ambush.
Zelenskyy has repeatedly pressed the United States and other allies for advanced air defense systems. Such systems have become increasingly important for Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aerial attacks on critical electricity and water infrastructure, particularly as winter approaches and the humanitarian impact is expected to worsen. Ukrainian officials have said 40% of the country’s energy infrastructure has been damaged in Russian attacks.
Including the latest aid, the US has committed more than $18.6 billion in weapons and other equipment to Ukraine since Russia attacked on Feb. 24. The new package of aid will be done under presidential drawdown authority, which allows the Pentagon to take weapons from its own stock and quickly ship them to Ukraine, officials said.