US ready to announce new military aid, drones for Ukraine

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Washington — The United States is prepared to announce that it will provide Ukraine With nearly $800 million in new military aid on Friday, including at least a dozen Scan Eagle surveillance drones, according to several US officials.

Officials said the bulk of the aid package would be additional howitzers and ammunition, including the Javelin missile, which Ukrainian forces are effectively using to hold Russian forces and retake the territory Moscow had gained. Two officials confirmed the new inclusion of portable, long-range drones that are launched by a slingshot and can be retrieved.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the aid ahead of its public release.

In the past four months of the war, Russia has focused on capturing the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists have controlled some areas as self-declared republics for eight years.

Russian forces have made some incremental gains in the east, but they have been placed on the defensive in other areas as well, as Ukraine intensifies its offensives into Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula from Crimea. The Russian-occupied territory was annexed by Moscow in 2014. Nine Russian warplanes were reported destroyed at an airport in Crimea last week, highlighting the Ukrainians’ ability to strike deep behind enemy lines.

Russian leaders have warned that striking facilities in Crimea marks an escalation in conflict fueled by US and NATO allies and threatens to drag the US further into the war.

This latest aid comes as Russia’s war on Ukraine is nearing the six-month mark. The US has already shipped more than $9 billion in weapons systems, ammunition and other equipment to Ukraine. This will be the 19th time since August 2021 that the Pentagon has provided Ukraine with equipment from Defense Department stocks.

Efforts are also on to reduce the conflict. On Thursday, the Turkish leader and UN chief met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in western Ukraine. They discussed a range of issues, including prisoner exchanges and an attempt by UN nuclear energy experts to visit the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

The facility has been controlled by the Russian military shortly after the offensive began on 24 February and has been the target of several explosions. Kyiv and Moscow accused each other of shelling the plant, raising international fear of devastation on the continent.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would follow up with Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting that most of the matters discussed would require agreement with the Kremlin.

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