Biden approves a new $300M military aid package for Ukraine

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By AAMER MADHANI and LOLITA C. BALDOR

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has approved a new package of military aid for Ukraine that totals up to $300 million and includes additional munitions for drones and an array of other weapons. It comes as Russia has continued to pummel Ukraine’s capital and unmanned aircraft have targeted Moscow.

U.S. officials have said there is no suggestion that U.S.-made drones or munitions were used in the Moscow strikes, which the Kremlin blamed on Ukraine but Kyiv has not acknowledged. The Biden administration has said it has made clear to Ukraine that U.S.-made weapons should not be used for attacks inside Russian territory.

“We don’t tell them where to strike. We don’t tell them where not to strike. … Ultimately President Zelenskyy and his military commanders decide what they’re going to do from a military perspective,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday. But he added that the U.S. has been ““very clear with the Ukrainians privately, we’ve certainly been clear publicly, that we do not support attacks inside Russia.”

He said Zelenskyy has given the U.S. assurances that the Ukrainians respect those concerns.

The new aid package provides munitions to boost Ukraine’s air defense capabilities to fend off Russia’s air assaults on Kyiv. It provides munitions for Patriot missile batteries and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), as well Avenger and Stinger air defense systems, mine-clearing equipment, anti-armor rounds, unguided Zuni aircraft rockets, night vision goggles, and about 30 million rounds of small arms ammunition and an undisclosed amount of other artillery rounds.

Moscow was targeted by a rare drone attack on Tuesday that lightly damaged residential buildings. Russian officials say the West, which throughout the grinding war has sought to keep the conflict from expanding beyond Ukraine, has not adequately condemned the attack on Russian soil.

Asked about Moscow’s criticism that the West is quietly supportive of attacks inside Russian territory, Kirby scoffed that the Russians are “not going to believe anything I have to say” on the matter.

He said the U.S. has made clear that it will not change its policy about not enabling or encouraging strikes inside Russia, but added, “I don’t think we’re going to take it upon ourselves as a burden to privately communicate that to the Russians.”

Ukrainian officials rejoiced over Tuesday’s drone attack but avoided claiming responsibility, a response similar to what they have said after previous attacks on Russian territory.

U.S. officials did not provide details on the drone munitions in the new aid package or specify which unmanned aircraft would use them. The Defense Department has given Ukraine a variety of unmanned aircraft over the last year, for both surveillance and attacks, including at least two versions of the Switchblade, a so-called kamikaze drone that can loiter in the air and then explode into a target.

Including the latest aid, the U.S. has committed more than $37.6 billion in weapons and other equipment to Ukraine since Russia attacked on Feb. 24, 2022. This latest package will be done under presidential drawdown authority, which allows the Pentagon to take weapons from its own stocks and quickly ship them to Ukraine, officials said.

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