US set to provide six billion dollars in long-term military aid for Ukraine

The US is expected to announce that it will provide around six billion dollars in long-term military aid to Ukraine, officials have said, adding that it will include much sought after munitions for Patriot air defence systems.

The officials said the aid package will be funded through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which pays for longer-term contracts with the defence industry and means that it could take many months or years for the weapons to arrive.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet made public.

Firefighters work on the site of a damaged building after a Russian drone attack in Odesa, Ukraine
Firefighters work on the site of a damaged building after a Russian drone attack in Odesa, Ukraine (Oleh Kiper/AP)

The announcement is expected to come on Friday as defence secretary Lloyd Austin convenes a virtual meeting of defence officials from Europe and around the world to discuss international aid for Ukraine.

The gathering — created by Mr Austin and known as the Ukraine Defence Contact Group — has been meeting monthly for the past two years, and is the primary forum for weapons contributions to Kyiv for the war.

The meeting is expected to focus largely on air defence systems, Mr Austin said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Kyiv needs Patriot missiles to create an air shield against further Russian missile attacks.

He discussed the need for Patriots on Friday at the Pentagon-led meeting.

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In this image released by the US Department of Defence, German soldiers fire the Patriot weapons system at the Nato Missile Firing Installation, in Chania, Greece (Sebastian Apel/AP)

Mr Zelensky said at least seven Patriot systems are needed to protect Ukrainian cities.

“We urgently need Patriot systems and missiles for them,” Zelenskyy said. “This is what can and should save lives right now.”

It follows the White House decision earlier this week to approve the delivery of one billion dollars in weapons and equipment to Ukraine.

Those weapons include a variety of ammunition, including air defence munitions and large amounts of artillery rounds that are much in demand by Ukrainian forces, as well as armoured vehicles and other weapons.

That aid, however, will get to Ukraine quickly because it is being pulled off Pentagon shelves, including in warehouses in Europe.

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US President Joe Biden speaks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce a Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine during the Nato summit in Lithuania (Paul Ellis/AP)

They provide weapons Kyiv desperately needs to stall gains being made by Russian forces in the war.

Bitterly divided members of Congress deadlocked over the funding for months, forcing house speaker Mike Johnson to cobble together a bipartisan coalition to pass the bill.

The 95 billion dollar foreign aid package, which also included billions for Israel and Taiwan, passed the House on Saturday, and the Senate approved it on Tuesday.

Senior US officials have described dire battlefield conditions in Ukraine, as troops run low on munitions and Russian forces make gains.

Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, the US has sent more than 44 billion dollars worth of weapons, maintenance, training and spare parts to Ukraine.

Among the weapons provided to Ukraine were Abrams M1A1 battle tanks.

But Ukraine has now side-lined them in part because Russian drone warfare has made it too difficult for them to operate without detection or coming under attack, two US military officials told The Associated Press.

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