The United States will assist Ukraine’s efforts to acquire the anti-aircraft systems needed to secure the country’s airspace against invading Russian forces, President Joe Biden said on Wednesday.
Mr Biden made the announcement just before signing an order authorising provision of $800m in defence aid to Kyiv, bringing the total of US defence assistance authorised this week to a “historic” $1bn.
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Speaking hours after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky asked the US Congress for “powerful, strong” aviation systems to help defend his country, Mr Biden hailed the Ukrainian leader’s “convincing and significant” speech.
He said the US, Nato, and the European Union would “continue to do more in the days and weeks ahead” to aide Mr Zelensky and the Ukrainian people, to ensure that Ukraine “never will be a victory” for Russian president Vladimir Putin, “no matter what advances he makes on the battlefield”.
“The American people are answering President Zelensky’s call for more help, more weapons for Ukraine to defend itself, more tools to fight Russian aggression,” Mr Biden said.
The president noted how the US had already provided Mr Zelensky’s government with anti-air weapons, anti-tank missiles, transport helicopters, patrol boats, and other equipment and capacities that he said have “clearly helped Ukraine afflict dramatic losses on Russian forces,” including $200m authorised for a “steady flow” of weapons and ammunition” on Saturday.
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“Now, I’m once again using my presidential authority to actively activate additional security systems to continue to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s assault,” Mr Biden said.
Between the $800m he said he was authorising, and the previous $200m, Mr Biden said the combined billion-dollar assistance package would include “direct transfers” of military materiel from the Defence Department to the Ukrainian military.
“This new package, on its own, can provide unprecedented assistance to Ukraine, including 800 anti-aircraft systems to make sure the Ukrainian military can continue to stop the planes and helicopters that have been attacking their people and to defend their Ukrainian airspace,” he said.
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Mr Biden added that in response to Mr Zelensky’s request, the US has now “identified” and is in the process of helping Ukraine “acquire” what he described as “additional longer range anti-aircraft systems and the munitions for those systems”.
While the president did not go into further detail about the “longer-range” systems involved, Mr Zelensky has specifically asked the US and Nato to transfer Soviet-made S-300 air defence missile systems, many of which are currently owned by such Nato members as Bulgaria, Latvia, and other ex-Warsaw Pact countries.
Furthermore, Mr Biden said the US would be providing Ukrainian forces with “cutting-edge” US-made drone systems, calling the move a demonstration of the US commitment to Ukraine’s defence.
“The United States and our allies and partners are fully committed to weapons of assistance to the Ukrainians, and more will be coming as we source additional stocks of equipment,” he said, adding that the American people would remain “steadfast with the people of Ukraine” as the defend themselves from the “immoral, unethical attacks on civilian populations” perpetrated by the Russian forces under Mr Putin’s command.
“We are united in our abhorrence of Putin’s depraved onslaught. And we’re going to continue to have their backs as they fight for their freedom, their democracy, their very survival. We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead,” he said.
“This is struggle that pits the appetites of an autocrat against humankind’s desire to be free. Let there be no doubt, no uncertainty, no question — America stands with the forces of freedom.”
Photo Credit: Getty