The United States on Saturday said it would rush up to $200 million in additional small arms, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine, as Ukrainian officials pleaded for more equipment to defend against heavy shelling by Russian forces.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday authorized the additional security assistance, the White House said, paving the way for the "immediate" shipment of fresh military equipment to Ukraine, a senior administration official said.
Biden's decision brings the total U.S. security aid provided to Ukraine to $1.2 billion since January 2021, and to $3.2 billion since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine, according to senior administration officials.
In a memorandum to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Biden directed that up to $200 million allocated through the Foreign Assistance Act be designated for Ukraine's defense.
The funds can be used for weapons and other articles from the Defense Department's stock, as well as military education and training to help Ukraine against the Russian invasion, now in its third week.
"It will provide immediate military assistance to Ukraine, including anti-armor, anti-aircraft systems, and small arms in support of Ukraine’s front-line defenders," one of the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The Pentagon declined to comment, referring queries to the White House and State Department.
Ukraine has been asking for more Javelin anti-tank weapons and Stinger missiles to shoot down aircraft.
Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, on Saturday underscored Ukraine's need for additional military supplies in an interview with the nonprofit Renew Democracy Initiative.
The United States has drawn from U.S. weapons stocks to supply Ukraine repeatedly, beginning in the fall of 2021 and then again in December and February.
The last batch of weapons provided by the United States in February included anti-armor, small arms, body armor and various munitions, according to the Pentagon, as well as anti-aircraft systems.
On Thursday night the U.S. Congress approved $13.6 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine as part of a $1.5 trillion measure to fund the U.S. government through September.