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Austin says Ukrainian forces will soon receive US Abrams tanks



 M1A1 Abrams tanks arrive at Grafenwoehr, Germany, May 12, 2023. The tanks will be used for training of Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel. [US Army]

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday that M1 Abrams tanks pledged by the Pentagon will soon arrive in Ukraine, and that efforts to train Ukrainian pilots on F16 jets are expanding to include U.S.-based training.

Speaking at the start of a meeting of the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Germany, Austin urged allies to provide Ukraine with the air defense systems it needs as Russia targets infrastructure sites such as ports and grain facilities.

Austin said the Russian attacks beyond the battlefield “have inflicted untold human suffering” and threaten global food security.

The contact group, which includes about 50 nations, was due to focus Tuesday not only on short-term needs for the Ukrainian military, but also on helping Ukraine “build a credible, capable combat force for the long term,” Austin said.

The Pentagon chief also welcomed the participation of new Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, who replaced Oleksii Reznikov earlier this month.

“We will stay united, we will stay resolute, we will stay firm in our determination to defend Ukraine and to uphold a world where aggression does not pay,” Austin said.

Ukrainian officials said Tuesday that Russian aerial attacks hit the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, killing one person.

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on Telegram the attack struck three warehouses, which stored windows, household chemicals and humanitarian aid.

U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine Denise Brown condemned the Russian strike, saying one of the warehouses belonged to Caritas, the Vatican’s main charitable organization.

“The vital humanitarian facility, which contained approximately 300 tons of relief supplies, was burned to the ground,” Brown said in a statement. “Attacks impacting humanitarian assets have escalated throughout the year and ultimately impact those who are suffering the horrific consequences of the war.”

Lviv, located near Ukraine’s border with Poland, is a key hub for western aid entering Ukraine and has been the target of prior Russian attacks.

Ukraine’s military said air defenses destroyed 27 of 30 drones that Russia used in its attacks, with intercepts happening in southern, central and western Ukraine.

The military also said it downed a Russian reconnaissance drone in the eastern part of the country.

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