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Home World News Washington Post World News West sends heavy weapons to Ukraine during fighting in Donbas

West sends heavy weapons to Ukraine during fighting in Donbas

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Western countries say they are sending more heavy weapons and even planes to Ukraine as part of an effort to bolster the country’s military as Russia ramps up its attacks in the east.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday the Ukrainian Air Force has at least 20 more fighter jets at its disposal after an influx of parts in recent weeks made repairs possible.

Ukraine has received “entire helicopters, including helicopters from the United States,” said a senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity under conditions set by the Pentagon.

Last week, President Biden approved an $800 million aid package for Ukraine, dramatically expanding the scope of the weapons Washington has sent to Kiev. The package included 155mm howitzers – a serious upgrade in long-range artillery to match Russian systems – 40,000 rounds of artillery and 11 Soviet-designed Mi-17 helicopters.

The country’s strong resistance to the Russian invasion so far – as well as the pivot from Moscow to the Donbas region to the east – has changed the calculus in Western countries that were initially reluctant to supply weapons on which Ukrainian troops had not been trained, say experts.

“The war has changed because the Russians have now prioritized the Donbas area, and that’s a whole different level of fighting, a whole different type of fighting,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Tuesday.

Analysts say the fighting in Donbas – an energy-rich region on the Russian border – is likely to be greater than that around the capital Kiev. Other Western countries have also promised more advanced weapons for Ukraine as the war progresses.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Wednesday that her government has supplied Kiev with anti-tank weapons and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, as well as “other things we did not discuss publicly so that the deliveries could be made quickly and safely.”

Britain also this month pledged a defense support package worth about $130 million that includes more anti-tank missiles, air defense systems and non-lethal equipment. Norway announced on Wednesday that it had donated 100 Mistral short-range anti-aircraft missiles, in addition to the light anti-armor weapons it had supplied late last month.

“There is an awareness that” [the war] could take much longer,” Amael Kotlarski, senior analyst at open-source defense intelligence firm Janes. “If it goes on for longer, it may give other countries more room for maneuver when it comes to shipping more complex weapons systems and training Ukraine to do them.”

The Pentagon sent four more flights of weapons, including howitzers, to Ukraine and has begun training Ukrainian troops on their use in another country in the region, a senior US defense official said Wednesday. The guns are intended to counter the Russian artillery.

Western leaders have insisted that they send equipment that is immediately usable. But while some weapons and equipment are advanced, much of them also remains less advanced than the weapons in Russia’s arsenal.

Most of the weapons donated by the West “would not give the Ukrainian army the technological edge of the Russian army, but they will allow it to fill, at least temporarily, the shortage of military supplies,” said Alexey Muraviev , a national security expert at Australia’s Curtin University.

Norway, for example, is putting the Mistrals out of service, “but it is still a modern and effective weapon that will be of great benefit to Ukraine,” Norwegian Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram said in a statement.

“It’s a good way to send aid that isn’t essential to your own defense needs,” Kotlarski said.

Washington Post Pentagon and national security reporter Karoun Demirjian explain how difficult it is to decide which weapons to send to Ukraine. (Video: Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

Why is the Donbas region in Ukraine a target for Russian troops?

But Ukraine will likely need arms supplies well into the future if it is to keep Russia at bay. And Western countries, especially in Europe, will have to balance between aiding Ukraine and maintaining their own defenses.

“The question is how sustainable this is from a Western point of view, in the sense of how deep countries are willing to dig into their stocks and potentially jeopardize their own defense capabilities,” Kotlarski said.

The ammunition stock “isn’t huge” in Europe, he added, and it can take years to replenish existing stocks.

The Pentagon is consulting with US defense contractors on whether action should be taken to ensure adequate production of the types of weapons the United States has sent to Ukraine.

“We certainly don’t want to get to a point where there is a concern about readiness or that all of a sudden” [we ] have a production problem that we did not track,” said the senior defense official.

According to Kotlarski: “Continuing the supply of ammunition, especially anti-tank weapons” [and] close-range air defense is actually what keeps Ukraine in the fray.”

Rachel Pannett in Sydney and Karen DeYoung, Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe in Washington contributed to this report.



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