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US defense chief visits Kiev, announces $100 million in military aid | Russia-Ukraine War

The United States will send anti-tank weapons, air defense equipment and an additional HIMARS system to Ukraine.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a surprise visit to kyiv where he unveiled a new military aid package to Ukraine worth $100 million.

Austin, in his first trip to Kyiv since April 2022, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as well as Defense Minister Rustem Umerov and Commander-in-Chief Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi on Monday and pledged long-term U.S. support .

“My message to you today, Mr. President, is that the United States of America stands with you. We will stay with you for the long term,” Austin told Zelenskyy.

Austin said Ukraine’s efforts to defeat Russian forces “matter to the rest of the world” and that U.S. support would continue “for the long term.”

The new aid package includes anti-tank weapons, air defense interceptors and an additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

Zelensky told Austin that his visit was “a very important signal” for Ukraine.

“We are counting on your support,” said the Ukrainian president.

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the United States has provided more than $44 billion – and its allies an additional $35 billion – in security support, ranging from millions from bullets to air defense systems, to advanced European and American battle tanks. and finally, promises for F-16 fighter jets.

But there are fears that support from allies is waning amid Israel’s devastating war with Gaza and a lack of progress in Ukraine’s counter-offensive that began in June.

Fighting is bogged down in the east of the country, around ruined towns such as Bakhmut and Adviidka, although Ukraine has recently recorded some successes in the southern region of Kherson, where it has gained a foothold on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, and the Black Sea.

However, as the cold sets in, it will become more difficult for both sides to make significant gains due to the terrain conditions.

“I think they are ready to fight in the winter,” Austin told reporters after his meetings, adding that Russia was expected to be “even more aggressive.”

Last year, Moscow relentlessly attacked Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and power grid, leaving millions of Ukrainians in the cold and darkness at a time when temperatures are often below zero.

Fred Kagan, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said it would be a mistake to think it’s time to wait.

“If we stop providing aid to Ukraine, we cannot remain in a stalemate. The aid is actually critical to preventing the Russians from resuming maneuvering in a way that allows them to defeat Ukraine,” Kagan told the Associated Press news agency. “So the cost of stopping aid is that Russia wins, Ukraine loses, and NATO loses. »

Austin’s visit comes amid growing division in the US Congress over aid to Ukraine. Some lawmakers want to make supporting Israel a priority, even as U.S. defense officials stress that Washington can support both allies simultaneously, while a small but vocal group of Republicans oppose sending increased aid to Ukraine, saying taxpayers’ money should be spent wisely. House.

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