US announces $2.1 billion more military assistance for Ukraine

By Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Department of Defense announced an additional $2.1 billion in security assistance for Ukraine on Friday, including air defense and ammunition capabilities, amid signs that Kyiv had begun its long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia.

The package includes additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems, Raytheon HAWK air defense systems and missiles, 105mm and 203mm artillery rounds, small AeroVironment drones that can be launched by hand, laser-guided rocket system munitions and support for training and maintenance, the Defense Department.

Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds will be used to purchase the weapons, allowing President Joe Biden’s administration to buy weapons from industry, rather than pull them from U.S. stocks.

Delivery of the weapons and systems depends on their availability and production timeline.

The announcement came as Ukraine’s long-anticipated counterattack seemed to be under way. Russia reported heavy fighting along the front in southern Ukraine, and bloggers described the first sightings of German and U.S. tanks and armored vehicles.

The Pentagon has provided more than $7 billion in security assistance for Ukraine under the USAI, in five separate tranches. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2022, Washington put $6.3 billion worth of USAI funds to work buying for Ukraine’s defense.

Biden said at a press conference with British Prime Minister Sunak on Thursday he was confident Washington could have the necessary funding to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes,” despite skepticism from a few Republicans in Congress.

In a statement, the Department of Defense said the latest announcement “illustrates the continued commitment to both Ukraine’s critical near-term capabilities as well as the enduring capacity of Ukraine’s Armed Forces to defend its territory and deter Russian aggression over the long term.”

In total, the United States has committed up to $40 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Alistair Bell)