The first shipment of the United States’ $200m security support package for Ukraine has arrived in Kyiv, the US embassy said.
The delivery followed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Kyiv this week amid concerns from Ukraine and its Western allies over tens of thousands of Russian troops amassed at the border with Ukraine. Russia denies planning a new military offensive.
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Washington had approved the $200m package in December.
“The United States will continue providing such assistance to support Ukraine’s armed forces in their ongoing effort to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression,” the embassy said on Facebook on Saturday.
Ukraine’s defence minister thanked the US for the aid.
Meanwhile, the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will send US-made anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine in a move that Blinken said Washington was fully endorsing.
“I expedited and authorised and we fully endorse transfers of defensive equipment NATO Allies Estonia Latvia Lithuania are providing to Ukraine to strengthen its ability to defend itself against Russia’s unprovoked and irresponsible aggression,” he tweeted.
I expedited and authorized and we fully endorse transfers of defensive equipment @NATO Allies 🇪🇪 🇱🇻 🇱🇹 are providing to Ukraine to strengthen its ability to defend itself against Russia’s unprovoked and irresponsible aggression. https://t.co/wFOLv0Wi2V
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) January 22, 2022
“We salute them for their longstanding support to Ukraine.”
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, earlier this week described Western arms supplies to Ukraine as extremely dangerous and said they “do nothing to reduce tensions”.
The West has rejected Moscow’s main demands – promises from NATO that Ukraine will never be added as a member, that no alliance weapons will be deployed near Russian borders, and that it will pull back its forces from Central and Eastern Europe.
A meeting between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday ended with no breakthrough.
In a joint statement published late on Friday, the defence ministers of the three Baltic states said they “stand united in our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in face of continued Russian aggression”.
They said Estonia would provide Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank weapons, while Latvia and Lithuania were sending Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and other related equipment to bolster Kyiv’s defensive military capabilities.
“Today Ukraine is at the forefront of separating Europe from the military conflict with Russia. Let’s face it – the war in Ukraine is ongoing and it is important to support Ukraine in every way we can so that they can resist the aggressor,” Minister of Defence of Estonia Kalle Laanet said.
It was not immediately clear when the weapons and equipment would be sent to Ukraine.
In a separate development, Estonia is seeking Germany’s approval to send Soviet-made howitzers, which once belonged to East Germany, to Ukraine. Estonia acquired the howitzers from non-NATO member Finland, which had bought them from Germany’s military surplus supply in the 1990s.
The German government said on Friday that it was considering Estonia’s request to pass the howitzers on to Ukraine but gave no timeline for a decision.
Speaking from Istanbul, Turkey, Matthew Bryza of the Atlantic Council said while the amassing of troops along the Ukraine border was an “unprecedented peacetime military build-up”, he believed war was not Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “preferred outcome”.
“A full-scale invasion is costly. It is risky because there will be a lot of Russian casualties as well [and the] Ukrainian military is much better equipped than in 2014,” he told Al Jazeera.
In 2014, Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula after the overthrow of Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly leader and also backed a separatist armed uprising in eastern Ukraine.
“Ukrainian civilians are ready to fight. There will be a partisan war potentially for years that will inflict heavy casualties,” Bryza added.