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U.S. to provide Ukraine $350M more in arms aid

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | March 21, 2023 at 5:07 a.m.
FILE - President Joe Biden welcomes Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. A year ago, with Russian forces bearing down on Ukraine’s capital, Western leaders feared for the life of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the U.S. offered him an escape route. Zelenskyy declined, declaring his intent to stay and defend Ukraine’s independence. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON -- The State Department announced Monday that the U.S. will send Ukraine $350 million in weapons and equipment, as fierce battles with Russian forces continue for control of the city of Bakhmut and as troops prepare for an expected spring offensive.

The latest package of aid includes a large amount of various types of ammunition, such as rockets for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and an undisclosed number of fuel tanker trucks and riverine boats.

In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the package also provides more ammunition for howitzers, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, high-speed anti-radiation (HARM) missiles and anti-tank weapons.

"Russia alone could end its war today. Until Russia does we will stand united with Ukraine for as long as it takes," Blinken said.

The American weapons will be taken from Pentagon stocks through the presidential drawdown authority, so it will be able to be delivered quickly to the warfront. The U.S. has provided more than $32.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022.

European Union countries have endorsed a fast-track procedure aimed at providing Ukraine with sorely needed artillery shells to repel Russia's invasion forces, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Monday, as Moscow maintains its focus on attacking the industrial east of the war-ravaged country.

As he chaired a meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers in Brussels, Borrell took to Twitter to hail what he described as "a historic decision" for the 27-nation bloc and Norway to send Ukraine 1 million 155-millimeter artillery shells within 12 months.

"We are taking a key step toward delivering on our promises to provide Ukraine with more artillery ammunition," he said, and noted that 18 countries had signed up to a European Defense Agency, or EDA, project to place joint orders for ammunition with the defense industry.

Borrell said he had won approval for his proposal to provide $1.1 billion to encourage member nations to provide artillery shells from their stocks and any orders for new rounds that they might have placed with industry.

A further 1 billion euros would also be used to fast-track new orders and encourage countries to work together on those purchases through the EDA or in groups of at least three nations. Germany has already called for countries to join its own effort, which Berlin believes will go faster.

The third track of the program involves support to Europe's defense industry so it can ramp up production in the longer term. EU officials have said new joint orders could be placed by May if the plan is endorsed in its entirety.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that he is grateful to Borrell and the bloc "for this game-changing decision. Exactly what is needed: urgent delivery + sustainable joint procurement."

Germany's defense industry says it stands ready to ramp up its output, including the kinds of arms and ammunition needed by Ukraine, but that it needs clarity about what governments want before investing in further production capacity.

Ukraine became the world's No. 3 importer of arms in 2022 after Russia's invasion triggered a big flow of military aid to Kyiv from the United States and Europe, according to Swedish think tank SIPRI.

"What's important for us as an industry is to get predictability," Hans Christoph Atzpodien, the head of Germany's arms manufacturing association, told The Associated Press last week. "That means we have to be clearly told which products are needed within which time."


An international conference in London raised $4.9 million to support the International Criminal Court in its investigations into alleged war crimes in Ukraine and its work to hold Russia to account, officials said Monday.

Justice ministers from more than 40 countries met in London for the war crimes conference days after the global court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of personal responsibility in the abduction of children from Ukraine. Friday's move was the first time the court has issued a warrant against a leader of one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

"We share the belief that President Putin and the wider leadership must be held to account," Britain's Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said as he opened the meeting. "Let's make sure that we back up our words with deeds, that we back up our moral support with practical means to effectively investigate these awful crimes."

Karim Khan, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said the warrant for Putin was not a moment of triumph but a "somber occasion" reminding the world that joint international action is key to delivering justice for Ukraine.

"If we don't at this moment of world affairs cling to the law, if we don't look at ourselves and ask how we can do better ... we will not only miss an opportunity but we may not have further opportunities," Khan said.

Monday's conference drummed up extra international funding for the ICC, as well as other offers of resources from European countries including investigative support and forensic expertise, Raab said.

On Friday, the global court also issued a warrant for the arrest of Maria Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for Children's Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation.

Andriy Kostin, prosecutor-general of Ukraine, described the abduction and transport of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia to be adopted and raised as Russians as part of a "clear plan" by Russia to "destroy Ukraine and Ukrainian identity."

His office has already launched investigations into more than 72,000 incidents of war crimes in his country, he said, adding that "no single day goes by without "widespread and systemic atrocities" committed in residential areas against civilians.

Although the conference's focus was on backing the ICC's work, Kostin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also petitioned for international support for the establishment of a special international tribunal to investigate and prosecute Russia's leaders for the broader crime of aggression.

In a pre-recorded video message aired at the end of the conference, Zelenskyy told participants that a new tribunal would supplement the ICC and "significantly strengthen international justice."

Zelenskyy has long pushed for a tribunal to hold Russian leaders to account for the decision to invade Ukraine. The European Union, among others, have supported the idea, but talks are in an early stage and there is no international agreement on the matter so far. Some are concerned that such a tribunal could undermine the ICC's mandate.

The arrest warrant against Putin may damage his international standing, but its practical implications are likely limited, not least because Moscow does not recognize the court's jurisdiction or extradite its nationals. Russian officials dismissed the ICC's move as "legally null and void."

Asked whether he believed it likely that Putin will one day stand trial, Khan said the ICC's record isn't perfect -- but that it has successfully convicted leaders including Liberian President Charles Taylor for crimes in Sierra Leone.

"Those that think they have a free pass or that there's no consequences need to realize that the law is out there," the prosecutor told Sky News.


Ukraine's military intelligence agency reported what appeared to be a brazen attack late Monday on Russian cruise missiles being transported by train in the occupied and illegally annexed Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula.

The region's Russian-appointed governor reported an incident in the area of the same Crimean town, Dzhankoi in the northern part of the peninsula, though he did not mention cruise missiles as an attack target.

None of the reports could be independently verified.

A vague statement by the Ukrainian military agency, posted on its website, said multiple Kalibr cruise missiles were destroyed by an explosion, without explicitly saying Ukraine was responsible or what weapon had been used. It said the missiles were being carried by rail and were destined for submarine launch.

The agency implied the Kyiv government was responsible by saying the explosion destroying the missiles continues "the process of Russia's demilitarization and prepares the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea for de-occupation."

In a precursor to last year's full invasion of Ukraine, Russia in 2014 seized Crimea, then annexed the peninsula in a move that many countries condemned as illegal. Zelenskyy has vowed to re-capture all the Ukrainian land Russia now occupies, including Crimea.

A possible indication of a Ukrainian attack came from the Russian-appointed governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksenov. He said on social media that anti-aircraft weapons were fired in the vicinity of Dzhankoi, where Ukraine's intelligence agency said the cruise missiles were destroyed.

Aksenov said falling debris injured one person and damaged a home and a store. His report did not mention that cruise missiles were hit, specify why the anti-aircraft weapons were fired or whether the injury and damage were caused by debris from the anti-aircraft weapons or from an object that was shot down.

Unconfirmed social media reports claimed Russia's anti-aircraft defenses shot down drones.

Throughout the current war, reports have surfaced of attacks on Russian military bases, assassinations and other targets in Crimea, with Ukraine rarely, if ever, explicitly claiming responsibility but welcoming such incidents.

These incidents in Crimea and other areas of Russia far from the war's front lines have exposed major weaknesses in Russia's defenses and embarrassed Russian President Vladimir Putin, who reportedly believed the invasion would be quick and easy.

Information for this article was contributed by Lolita C. Baldor, Matthew Lee, Lorne Cook and Sylvia Hui of The Associated Press.

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