Joe Biden announces $800 million in new arms shipments to Ukraine | Ukraine

Joe Biden announced $800m (£613m) in new arms shipments to Ukraine and said he will go to Congress to ask for more funding to help repel the new Russian offensive in the east and south.

The new US arms deliveries will include 72 howitzers and their towing vehicles, as well as 144,000 artillery shells and more than 120 drones tailored to Ukraine’s needs.

“We are in a critical time window where [the Russians] are going to set the stage for the next phase of this war,” Biden said. “And the United States and our allies and partners are moving as quickly as possible to continue providing Ukraine with the weapons its forces need to defend their nation.”

Fifty Ukrainian artillery officers are taking a week-long course taught by American instructors on the use of American 155mm howitzers in an unnamed European country, the Pentagon said.

Biden said the latest arms supplies emphasizing heavy artillery reflected the demands of Donbass’ different landscape, which is largely flat farmland, compared to the forests around Kyiv, offering fewer opportunities ambushes and guerrilla warfare.

The president said the United States had so far given Ukraine 10 anti-tank missiles, including Javelins, for every tank Russia has on the battlefield, as well as armored cars, armed drones and other heavy equipment, and acted as a facilitator for arms deliveries. from other countries.

“We won’t always be able to publicize all that our partners are doing to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden said, and he paraphrased a famous Theodore Roosevelt quote: “Sometimes we will talk gently and carry a great javelin”. .”

The new type of drone the United States will deliver to Ukraine is called the Phoenix Ghost and was developed specifically for Ukraine by the United States Air Force with a California-based company, Aevex Aerospace.

The Pentagon gave few details about the drone, but a Department of Defense official was quoted by breaking defense as saying it was a “one way drone” that “thumps a punch”, suggesting it is a kamikaze flying bomb similar to the Switchblade drones the US already has books.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was quick to express his gratitude for the “leadership of the United States in supporting the Ukrainian people in the fight against Russian aggression”. He said on Twitter: “This help is needed today more than ever! It saves the lives of our defenders of democracy and freedom and brings us closer to restoring peace in Ukraine. »

Zelenskiy was visited Thursday in kyiv by the Spanish and Danish Prime Ministers, Pedro Sánchez and Mette Frederiksen, who promised new military supplies from their countries. Sánchez pledged 200 tons of equipment, including heavy transport vehicles and ammunition, which he said was “Spain’s biggest shipment so far, more than double what we’ve sent so far. ‘now”.

Frederiksen said his country would increase the scale of its arms contribution to Ukraine by 600m Danish kroner (£67m).

The new US arms shipment brings Washington’s total military support since the start of the war to more than $3 billion. Congress approved a $13.6 billion military and humanitarian aid package in March and Biden said he expected to return asking for more next week.

“My hope and expectation is that Congress will act and act quickly,” he said, thanking Democrats and Republicans for their support for funding Ukraine.

When asked how much he would ask this time, Biden replied, “It is decided now. I ask the Ministry of Defense to put in place what they think we need.

Biden also announced another $500 million in economic support for Ukraine, a new fast track for Ukrainian refugees to come to the United States from Europe, and the next step in tightening sanctions on Moscow. – a ban on Russian ships visiting US ports. .

“This means that no vessel … that sails under the Russian flag, or that is owned or operated by Russian interests, will be allowed to dock in the US port or access our shores. None,” he said. .

Daniel Tannenbaum, a former U.S. Treasury sanctions compliance official, said enforcing the ban would be difficult. “There has been evidence that they have changed flags over the last few weeks, without knowing what impact this will have,” he said, adding that for the measure to be effective, the property would have to be investigated. of ships sailing under the convenience flag.

The UK, in its latest round of sanctions, announced it would ban imports of Russian caviar and other luxury goods, as well as silver and wooden products. Customs duties on imports of diamonds and rubber from Russia and Belarus will be increased by 35%.

UK International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “We are taking every possible opportunity to step up the pressure to insulate the Russian economy and these new measures will tighten the screws, closing lucrative funding avenues for Putin’s war machine. ”

Martin E. Berry