The United States is providing up to $600 million in additional military aid for Ukraine, in a package that includes weapons for air defense, artillery munitions and other capabilities.
The aid package that the Pentagon announced Thursday is meant to sustain and integrate Ukraine’s air defense systems with Western weapons, while also providing additional ammunition for HIMARS, an artillery rocket system that has proven very effective on the battlefield.
The package also includes 105 millimeter artillery rounds, electronic warfare and counterelectronic warfare equipment, demolition munitions for obstacle clearing, and funds for training, maintenance and sustainment activities.
Funding for the package is being provided through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which focuses on future military needs.
The announcement came just a day after the U.S. announced a $175 million security assistance package for Ukraine to immediately provide ammunition and equipment from U.S. military stockpiles. It was the 46th time the U.S. has used the presidential drawdown authority to provide Ukraine with military assistance.
“Our focus right now is making sure that Ukraine has what it needs on the battlefield, and that’s flowing security assistance in when we can and as much as we can,” deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said Thursday in response to a question from VOA.
Wednesday’s package included depleted uranium ammunition for Abrams tanks, marking the first time the U.S. is sending the controversial armor-piercing munitions that have the ability to destroy Russian tanks.
Russia has slammed the decision, describing it as a criminal act and claiming the rounds cause cancer.
However, Singh said, “The CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has stated that there is no evidence that depleted uranium rounds caused cancer. The World Health Organization reports that there has been no increase of leukemia or other cancers that have been established following any exposure to uranium or DU [depleted uranium]. And even the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] has stated unequivocally that there is no proven link between DU exposure and increases in cancers or significant health or environmental impacts.”
Thirty-one U.S. Abrams tanks are expected to arrive in Ukraine in the fall.
Colonel Marty O’Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. Army Europe and Africa, told VOA on Thursday that about 200 Ukrainian soldiers were still training on the M1A1 Abrams tank at U.S. Army training areas in Germany, after recently completing a Combined Arms Battalion force-on-force exercise there.
“At the request of Ukraine, the soldiers are maintaining their operator and maintenance proficiency until the 31 tanks the U.S. committed to refurbish and to deliver to Ukraine by the fall are ready. This proficiency training is expected to occur over a weekslong period,” O’Donnell said.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the international community has trained more than 80,000 Ukrainians, he added.