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US announces $6 billion military aid for Ukraine amid massive strikes

US Defense Minister Lloyd Austin speaks during a press conference announcing $6 billion in new military aid for Ukraine at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on April 26, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

The United States has announced an additional $6 billion aid package for Ukraine to purchase American military hardware, including new Patriot missiles.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Washington will provide Ukraine with the long-term military aid package – the largest so far – to purchase new military hardware directly from American defense companies.

“This is the largest security assistance package that we’ve committed to date. It will include critical interceptors for Ukraine’s Patriot and NASAMS air defense systems, more counter-drone systems and support equipment, significant amounts of artillery ammunition, and air-to-ground munitions and maintenance and sustainment support,” he said.

The newly-announced package is the second this week, following another worth up to $1 billion that was announced on Wednesday, which featured items that will be drawn from US stocks. However, the $6 billion aid package will be secured from the defense industry, meaning that it will take longer to arrive on the battlefield.

In the past several months, Ukraine has repeatedly asked for more air defenses from its Western allies, particularly the US, as it struggles to hold back Russian advances.

The US House of Representatives on April 20 approved legislation authorizing $61 billion for the war-torn ex-Soviet republic. The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday and US President Joe Biden signed it into law on Wednesday, following months of bipartisan division in Congress.

Austin’s remarks came after he concluded a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a consortium of approximately 50 nations that includes all NATO members, several of the US’s major non-NATO allies and other countries that have supplied military and humanitarian aid to Kiev.

It was revealed on Wednesday that the US has shipped long-range MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles to Ukraine in recent weeks.

These missiles, which have a range of about 300 kilometers, were included in a $300 million military aid package for Kiev that Biden approved on March 12.

According to US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, some of these missiles were part of a $1 billion weapons package approved on Wednesday.

Washington has already provided Kiev with HIMARS launchers, capable of firing ATACMS missiles, which can hit Russian targets way behind the frontline between the two warring neighbors.

Russia has warned that the conflict in Ukraine could be prolonged due to the support of Western countries, on top of them the US, for Kiev.

On Saturday, reports said Ukrainian drones had hit two Russian oil refineries and a military airfield in a large-scale overnight attack.

A Ukrainian defense source, quoted by AFP, said "key technological facilities" were hit at two refineries in the southern Krasnodar region.

Russian officials had earlier reported a fire at a refinery in the town of Slavyansk-on-Kuban and state media said the facility had partially halted production.

Moscow also said that Ukraine launched one of its largest ever attempted overnight drone attacks on the southern Krasnodar region and the Crimean peninsula.

The defense ministry its air defenses "destroyed 66 Ukrainian drones over the territory of the Krasnodar region, and two more drones were destroyed over the Crimean peninsula".

In Kiev, officials said Russia launched a "massive" missile strike at Ukraine overnight, hitting energy facilities and damaging power plants in several regions.

Moscow has escalated its strikes against Ukraine's power network in recent months, causing blackouts and triggering Ukraine to ask consumers to ration their energy supplies.

"Russian armed forces staged another massive missile attack on Ukraine," the army said in its regular morning update.

The DTEK power operator said equipment at four of its thermal power plants were "severely damaged" in the overnight strikes.

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