Pentagon to meet largest US arms makers over Ukraine: Reports

The top eight defence contractors are invited to the meeting, which is reportedly aimed at upping assistance to Ukraine.

Stinger missiles Ukraine
A Ukrainian service member unloads military aid, including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, at the Boryspil International Airport outside Kyiv [File: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]

The Pentagon is set to host a meeting with eight of the largest defence contractors in the United States, as Washington aims to up military assistance to Ukraine in preparation for a protracted conflict against Russia, according to multiple reports.

The reported meeting on Wednesday comes as Russian troops are regrouping after Moscow said it was withdrawing its forces from near Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and shifting its focus to the country’s east.

“We will discuss industry proposals to accelerate production of existing systems and develop new, modernised capabilities critical to the department’s ongoing security assistance to Ukraine and long-term readiness of US and ally/partner forces,” a defence official told the Financial Times.

Among the companies invited are Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, who together produce the lightweight Javelin anti-tank missile system. Raytheon also makes the portable anti-aircraft Stinger missile system. Pentagon officials say both systems have proven particularly effective for Ukrainian forces in the wake of Russia’s invasion on February 24.

Meanwhile, Reuters news agency reported that the administration of President Joe Biden could announce an additional $750m in military assistance to Ukraine as soon as Wednesday.

The White House said last week it has provided, to date, more than $1.7bn in security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion, including some 5,000 Javelins and more than 1,400 Stingers.

The newest assistance equipment would be funded using the Presidential Drawdown Authority, or PDA, in which the president can authorise the transfer of articles and services from US stocks without Congressional approval in response to an emergency, the news agency reported, citing two US officials familiar with the matter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has continually appealed for more military support from allies across the world, often appearing in front of legislatures by video link.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, indicated on Tuesday that there was no end to the war in sight, saying during a televised news conference that Russia would triumph in all of its “noble” war aims.

After the stalled advance on Kyiv, Putin has said Russia is re-focusing its military action on the contested eastern region of Donbas, which it has pledged to “liberate”. Zelenskyy has warned that the fall of Donbas could lead to a renewed offensive on Kyiv.

Russian troops have been accused of committing war crimes several times since the invasion began on February 24.

Hundreds of civilian bodies, many apparently executed, have been discovered amid Russia’s withdrawal from the more western reaches of the country.

Last week, 57 people were killed in what Ukrainian officials said was a Russian missile attack on a train station crowded with fleeing civilians in the eastern city of Kramatorsk.

Russia denies the allegations.

US and European officials, meanwhile, are looking into reports that chemical weapons were used by Russia in the port city of Mariupol.

On Tuesday, Biden accused Russia of committing “genocide” in Ukraine, where the UN says fighting has killed at least 1,800 civilians and forced more than 4.6 million Ukrainians to flee the country.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies