US announces last authorised Military aid for Ukraine

An airman with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron uses a forklift to move 155 mm shells ultimately bound for Ukraine, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 29, 2022. [AP Photo]

The Biden administration announced Wednesday the final drawdown of weapons and military equipment for Ukraine from U.S. stockpiles under the existing presidential authorization, with future assistance for Kyiv up to Congress.

The $250 million package includes air defense munitions, additional ammunition for High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), 155 mm and 105 mm artillery ammunition, and anti-armor munitions, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

"Our assistance has been critical to supporting our Ukrainian partners as they defend their country and their freedom against Russia's aggression," Blinken said, adding that the arms and equipment were being provided under previously directed drawdowns for Ukraine.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said last week that President Joe Biden was planning one more military aid package in December, but that assistance after that would require an agreement in Congress, where the prospects for a deal are uncertain.

"When that one's done ... we will have no more replenishment authority available to us, and we're going to need Congress to act without delay," Kirby said on December 18.

Blinken urged Congress to act swiftly on new aid for Ukraine, "to advance our national security interests by helping Ukraine defend itself and secure its future."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was in Washington earlier this month to speak with U.S. lawmakers about Ukraine's needs. Biden has proposed $61 billion in aid for Ukraine, along with additional military aid for Israel and Taiwan, but the legislation has been stalled by Republican demands that the administration address border security.

Senate leaders said after Zelenskyy's visit that negotiators were "making encouraging progress" but "challenging issues remain."

Drone attacks

Overnight Wednesday, Russia attacked Ukraine with 46 drones launched in several waves, Ukraine’s military said.

The Ukrainian air force said its defenses destroyed 32 of the drones, while most of the remainder were able to strike front-line areas, mainly in the Kherson region.

The aerial barrage came a day after Ukrainian warplanes damaged a Russian ship moored in the Black Sea off Crimea as the 22-month war has reached a stalemate.

Two people were killed and three were injured in the barrage in the Odesa region.

The bombardment of the Kherson region occurred as about 140 civilians were waiting at a train station in the region’s capital, Kherson, Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said. The shelling killed one policeman and injured two other officers, as well as two civilians.

More than 100 people who were waiting for the train arrived in Kyiv Wednesday morning, national rail operator Ukrzaliznytsia said.

The attack on the Kherson region also struck the power grid, leaving around 70% of households without electricity in Kherson city, where temperatures hovered around 3 degrees Celsius, regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin said.

He said it was not known when power might be restored, he said.

The Russian embassy in Denmark said in a statement Wednesday that six people from Denmark have been charged by Russia as being foreign mercenaries in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

The charges follow an investigation by Russian authorities into the recruitment and participation of foreign mercenaries. If convicted, the Danes face up to 15 years in prison, according to the Russian Federation's Penal Code, the embassy said.

The Russian embassy added that 20 Danes have been registered for taking part in the war between Russia and Ukraine, the Russian embassy said, adding that the embassy has reached out to the Danish Foreign Ministry.

The Danish foreign ministry was not immediately available to comment, Reuters reported.