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Pentagon chief in kyiv amid questions over future US arms deliveries

During a surprise trip to the Ukrainian capital, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attempted to rally support for Ukraine and even suggested that Ukrainian forces would be “even more aggressive” in their fight against Ukrainian forces. Russian invasion throughout this winter.

Austin’s optimistic predictions about the next phase of fighting come after Ukrainian forces failed to achieve a decisive breakthrough during a six-month counter-offensive that cost Ukrainian troops dearly.

There are also serious concerns in Ukraine about the long-term future of US military aid, with some Republicans wanting to end its support.

Speaking to reporters in Kyiv, Austin called on Congress to approve additional funding, calling it a “smart investment” in U.S. security.

“It’s about not living in a world where a dictator can wake up one day and decide to annex the assets of his peaceful neighbor,” Austin told reporters in Kiev.

However, Ukraine’s ability to “take the fight to the enemy,” as Secretary Austin put it, will largely depend on continued U.S. military aid, including munitions.

Partially finished 155mm artillery shell casings are seen during their manufacturing process at the BAE Systems factory in Washington, near Newcastle upon Tyne, northeast England, November 8, 2023.

Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration is working with Congress to try to reach a broader funding deal that would include additional support for Ukraine.

However, arms supplies are under additional pressure due to the war in the Middle East.

Just before Austin’s trip, a Ukrainian official told ABC News that U.S. deliveries of NATO-standard artillery shells to Ukraine had fallen “more than 30 percent” since the start of the Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza last month.

The 155mm artillery shells are arguably the most important ammunition for Ukraine in its fight against invading Russian forces, and some US stocks, intended for Ukrainian forces, have been diverted to Israel.

U.S. officials have repeatedly asserted in recent weeks that providing munitions to Israel would have no impact on the war in Ukraine.

“They (US officials) were telling us that this would not influence (US) commitments, but it does,” a Ukrainian official said.

The official, who spoke to ABC News on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, said supplies of these vital artillery shells represent “about 60 to 70 percent of the country’s overall supply.” ‘Ukraine”.

PHOTO: Ukrainian military personnel fire artillery during an anti-drone exercise in the Chernigiv region on November 11, 2023.

Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery during an anti-drone exercise in the Chernigiv region, November 11, 2023.

Sergey Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

A senior US defense official, however, said the ammunition reduction had “absolutely nothing to do with what’s happening in Gaza.” Presidential withdrawal plans “start being put into place weeks in advance, so there is no connection between what is happening in Gaza and what is happening in Ukraine,” the official said.

During his trip to Ukraine, Austin announced a new $100 million security assistance package for Ukraine, which included an unspecified number of US-standard 155mm artillery shells. NATO.

The latest US military aid package comes from existing funding already approved by Congress. However, this amount of money is already relatively small.

Late last month, Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said he was “confident” that the United States could “continue to support both Ukraine and Israel.”

Although it receives a wide range of weapons from its Western partners, Russia has key advantages on the battlefield, such as greater artillery firepower, more drones of attack types and higher explosives, as well as a greater number of combat aircraft and attack helicopters.

In recent weeks, Russian forces have attempted to seize the battlefield initiative by launching major attacks on Ukrainian positions in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian General Valery Zaluzhny, in an interview with The Economist, recently described the war as being “at a stalemate.”

Speaking in kyiv on Monday, Secretary of State Austin insisted that Ukrainian troops “would have the means…to succeed in winter fighting.”

However, the Ukrainian official who spoke anonymously to ABC News expressed real concerns about U.S. arms supplies in light of the disagreement in Congress.

“We are in great difficulty… Basic ammunition is not arriving,” the official said.

The official warned that Ukraine risks losing its battlefield position “at a very high price.”

Gn world

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