US announces new $600 million aid package for Ukraine to boost counteroffensive

WASHINGTON (Reuters) : The US Defense Department announced a new $600 million package of long-term aid to Ukraine on Thursday, providing funding for an array of weapons and other equipment just a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the country and pledged $1 billion in new military and humanitarian aid. The department said the latest package will come through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which provides money for long-term contracts for weapons systems that need to be built or modified by defense companies.
Included in the aid is funding for equipment to sustain and integrate Ukraine’s air defense systems, ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), artillery rounds, electronic warfare and counter-electronic warfare equipment, demolition munitions and mine-clearing equipment, as well as for training and maintenance.
The aid comes as the Biden administration works to show its continued support for Ukraine’s three-month-old counteroffensive, as troops try to break through Russian defenses and clear vast mine fields. Some allies have quietly expressed concerns about the slow-moving offensive, while others say Ukraine has made some progress and has successfully used air defenses to knock down Russian missiles.
Blinken, on a trip to Kyiv on Wednesday, announced that the Pentagon will provide about $175 million for weapons that will be pulled from Pentagon stocks and an additional $100 million in grants to allow the Ukrainians to purchase arms and equipment.
In addition, he announced the US will send nearly $805 million in non-arms-related aid to Ukraine, including $300 million for law enforcement, $206 million in humanitarian aid, $203 million to combat corruption and $90.5 million for removing mines, the State Department said. That package also included a previously announced $5.4 million transfer to Ukraine of frozen assets from Russian oligarchs.
The aid announced this week comes from money previously approved by Congress. President Joe Biden has requested $21 billion more in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine for the final months of 2023, but it’s not clear how much — if any — will be approved by Congress.

Zelensky-Netanyahu discuss Israeli support

Also on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed ways in which Israel can support Kyiv in its conflict with Russia, the Ukrainian leader’s office said.

Zelensky has previously urged Israel to provide more open support for Kyiv and criticized its attempts to maintain an even-handed approach in the 18-month-old war.
“The president noted the importance of Israel’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” read the account of the conversation on the Ukrainian presidential website.
“The two sides discussed possible paths of Israeli support for Ukraine in opposing Russia’s invasion.”
Israel has provided Ukraine with humanitarian and diplomatic assistance but not arms, mindful of the need to coordinate Israeli air strikes against Iranian targets in neighboring Syria with Moscow given Russia’s clout with Damascus.
Netanyahu’s office said the two leaders discussed “the continuation of Israeli assistance to Ukraine, including to Ukrainian refugees in Israel, as well as the advancement of development assistance of civilian air defense systems.”
Netanyahu also asked Zelensky to ensure safe conditions for the annual pilgrimmage this month by Hasidic Jews from around the world to Uman in central Ukraine, burial place of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who revived the Hasidic movement and died in 1810.
Zelensky, who is of Jewish descent, said Ukraine was happy to welcome the pilgrims but noted that there was capacity in air raid shelters for only 11,000 people and Israel estimates up to 50,000 could attend.
“This is a security challenge which will require an emergency joint response,” the website quoted him as saying.