US announces $820 million in military aid for Ukraine

The United States on Friday announced details of $820 million in additional military aid to Ukraine, including new surface-to-air missile systems and counter-artillery radar.

The latest aid program is designed to help Ukraine counter Russia’s use of long-range missiles and follows calls by Ukrainian officials for Western countries to send more advanced weapons systems that can better match the equipment of Moscow.

The Pentagon said Friday that the Biden administration has now sent $7.6 billion in security aid to Ukraine, including nearly $7 billion since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in late february.

US President Joe Biden told a press conference at this week’s NATO summit in Madrid that the United States “will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes”.

The 14th US military assistance program for Ukraine includes two air defense systems, known as NASAMS, which can help Ukrainian forces defend against cruise missiles and aircraft.

A senior US official said the systems are NATO-standard defense systems and are part of an effort to update Ukraine’s air defenses from a Soviet-era system to one. modern system.

“The Ukrainians are doing a magnificent job using their existing air defense systems, but we all know that Soviet type systems mean they are made in Russia… so over time it will be harder to maintain spares “, said the manager.

The latest military aid package also provides the Ukrainians with up to 150,000 155 millimeter artillery rounds as well as additional ammunition for the medium-range rocket systems the United States supplied to Ukraine in June.

On Friday, at the front, at least 21 people were killed and dozens injured when Russian missiles fired in the Ukrainian region of Odessa. At least one of the affected sites was a residential building. Ukrainian military officials said two children were among the dead and the search for survivors continues.

The missile hit the nine-story building in the city of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, according to a statement from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odessa regional administration, told Ukrainian state television that a rescue operation is continuing to free those buried under the rubble after part of the building collapsed. . Another missile hit a resort town, Bratchuk said, injuring several people.

Russia denied targeting civilians in the attack.

“I would like to remind you of the president’s words that the Russian armed forces do not work with civilian targets,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff has accused Russia of waging a war against civilians.

In his Friday night video address, Zelenskyy called the strikes “conscious and deliberately targeted Russian terror and not some sort of mistake or chance missile strike.”

Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work at a damaged <a class=residential building in the town of Serhiivka, about 50 kilometers southwest of Odessa, Ukraine, July 1, 2022.” data-src=”https://gdb.voanews.com/10060000-0aff-0242-0c44-08da5bc375cb_w250_r1_s.jpg”/>

Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work at a damaged residential building in the town of Serhiivka, about 50 kilometers southwest of Odessa, Ukraine, July 1, 2022.

Friday’s missile attack in Odessa came hours after Russia said it had withdrawn its forces from Snake Island in Ukraine on Thursday. The strategic island had become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance since the invasion of Moscow four months ago.

Russia had used the Black Sea island near Odessa as a staging base after seizing it early in the war, launching attacks on Ukraine from there and monitoring shipments from the Ukrainian ports.

Ukraine has confirmed that Russian forces have withdrawn after Ukrainian forces hit the island with missile and artillery strikes overnight, leaving remaining Russian forces to escape in two speedboats.

The Russian Defense Ministry said he left the small island “as a sign of goodwill” after completing his mission there.

A senior US official said the United States “does not believe there is any credence in what Russia is saying, whether it is a gesture of goodwill.” The official said the retreat was more about Ukraine’s efforts to defend the island and Kyiv’s use of weapons such as harpoon missiles.

“The Ukrainians made it very difficult for the Russians to maintain their operations there, made them very vulnerable to Ukrainian strikes, the official said.

In other developments, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the Ukrainian parliament that EU membership was “within reach”, but urged them to press ahead with anti-corruption reforms. corruption.

“You have created an impressive anti-corruption machine,” she told lawmakers Friday via video link. Von der Leyen stressed that Brussels and EU member states strongly support Ukraine both in its battle against the ongoing Russian invasion and in its quest for “reunification with our European family”.

For his part, Zelenskyy said Ukraine and the European Union are beginning a new chapter in their history after Brussels officially accepted Ukraine’s application to join the 27-nation bloc.

“We have traveled 115 days to achieve candidate status and our journey to membership should not take decades. We should get down this path quickly,” Zelenskyy said.

At the NATO meeting in Madrid, Western leaders, including Biden, proclaimed their continued military and humanitarian support for Ukraine.

Norway announced $1 billion in aid to Ukraine over two years as Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store visited the country.

The fund is intended for “humanitarian aid, reconstruction of the country, armament and operational support for the (Ukrainian) authorities”, the Norwegian government said in a statement on Friday.

“We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine,” Store said in the statement.

“We help support the struggle of Ukrainians for freedom. They are fighting for their country, but also for our democratic values.”

Some information for this report comes from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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