By Mimi Nguyen Ly
The Biden administration will be sending $250 million more in weapons and ammunition for Ukraine to support its ongoing counteroffensive against Russia.
The military aid package will use presidential drawdown authority (PDA), which means the Pentagon will take the weapons from existing U.S. stockpiles and quickly ship them to Ukraine. It marks the Biden administration’s 45th drawdown of equipment from its own stocks to Ukraine since August 2021.
The package includes AIM-9M missiles for air defense, munitions for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, 155 mm and 105 mm artillery ammunition, mine-clearing equipment, Javelin and other anti-armor systems and rockets, over 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition, medical vehicles, and demolition munitions for obstacle clearing.
“The package will help Ukrainian forces on the battlefield and support its air defenses as Russia continues to launch brutal, brutal strikes against the people of Ukraine, including attacks this past week,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.
The $250 million package is being funded by an “accounting error” that was announced in June, when the Pentagon said it had overcounted the value of the weapons it sent to Ukraine over the past two years by $6.2 billion.
The error occurred because U.S. military officials didn’t count the actual value of what was pulled from the Pentagon’s weapons stockpile and sent to Ukraine but instead used the value of replacing those weapons, according to deputy Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh. Newly produced weapons usually cost more than the excess old ones they replace.
The United States would have already run out of funding for the year to provide additional stockpile equipment to Ukraine, but the erroneous overvaluing of the equipment essentially freed up an additional $6.2 billion in funding.
With the latest package, the United States has sent Ukraine more than $43 billion worth of military assistance since Russia invaded in February 2022.
The military assistance has been provided via the PDA or the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI). The USAI was created in 2015 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Under this authority, the United States procures weapons via external defense companies. Packages sent via USAI take longer to arrive to Ukraine compared to the PDA, which arrive within weeks.
Those funds have provided weapons systems like howitzers and millions of rounds of ammunition to fight back against the much larger Russian military. During the intense and bloody land war, now in its 18th month, much of the ammunition and weaponry has already been used up.
The Biden administration is “confident” it “will have enough money to meet Ukraine’s need through the fiscal year,” Ms. Singh told reporters during a briefing on Tuesday.
“But as you know, there’s been a request for a supplemental. And we’re hopeful that the Congress will approve a supplemental package for Ukraine,” she added.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement on Tuesday in support of continued aid to Ukraine.
“Every day, Russia continues to wage a brutal war of conquest that has killed many of Ukraine’s civilians and displaced millions of its people. Their attacks on Ukraine’s ports and grain infrastructure have caused price volatility in food and grain markets and worsened hunger and global food insecurity around the world,” he said.
“Russia started this war and could end it at any time by withdrawing its forces from Ukraine and stopping its brutal attacks. Until it does, the United States and our allies and partners will stand united with Ukraine, for as long as it takes.”
Ukraine–Russia War Update
While Ukraine has faced challenges in its summer ground operations, it has penetrated Russian territory in recent times, with notable incidents like the May assault on the Kremlin and multiple drone strikes on Moscow’s civilian sites.
Russian officials accused Ukraine of targeting six Russian regions early Wednesday, in what appeared to be the biggest drone attack on Russian soil since February 2022.
Drones hit an airport in Russia’s western Pskov region near the border with Estonia and Latvia, and started a massive fire, the governor and local media reported. More drones were shot down over Oryol, Bryansk, Ryazan, Kaluga, and the Moscow region surrounding the Russian capital, according to Russia’s defense ministry.
The airport strike, which was first reported minutes before midnight, damaged four Il-76 transport aircraft, Russia’s state news agency Tass reported, citing emergency officials.
Meanwhile, at least two people were killed in Kyiv amid a “massive combined attack” by Russia early on Wednesday using missiles and drones, Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, said on Telegram. At least two others are wounded, he added.
“Kyiv has not experienced such a powerful attack since spring. The enemy launched a massive, combined attack using drones and missiles,” Mr. Popko said.
He stated that several clusters of Shahed drones were fired at Kyiv from different directions. Russia then fired missiles from their Tu-95MS strategic bombers. It was unclear how many missiles were launched.
“All in all, Ukrainian air defence forces destroyed more than 20 enemy targets,” Popko said. He added that the deaths and injury occurred when debris fell on a commercial building in the Shevchenkivskyi district.
Bill Pan, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.