Latest in Ukraine: US gives $2.6 billion more in aid to Ukraine

Latest in Ukraine: US gives $2.6 billion more in aid to Ukraine

New developments:

  • The United States is providing $500 million in immediate assistance from Pentagon stocks using the President’s withdrawal authority and $2.1 billion in future assistance using funds from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI).
  • Ukraine’s military said Russia attacked with 17 Iranian-made drones overnight, with Ukrainian forces destroying 14 of them. Ukraine said 13 of the destroyed drones were over the Odesa region.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday visited the village of Yahidne in northern Ukraine on the anniversary of its liberation, commemorating the brutal captivity of nearly 400 civilians by Russian invaders in a school basement for 27 days before their release.
  • The US government is pushing hard for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is being held in Russia on espionage charges, the White House said on Monday.
  • The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, is meeting with a Russian delegation on Wednesday in Moscow to discuss the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

An empty flagpole stands between the national flags of France and Estonia outside NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 3, 2023. Finland will officially join NATO on Tuesday. An empty flagpole stands between the national flags of France and Estonia outside NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 3, 2023. Finland will officially join NATO on Tuesday.

Latest in Ukraine: NATO welcomes 31st member, Finland

The US is providing Ukraine with a $2.6 billion military aid package that includes ammunition for the Patriot air defense system and three surveillance radars.

The package also contains hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition along with 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds, which Ukrainian forces have continued to rapidly burn through as they counter Russia’s illegal invasion.

A senior defense official, who spoke to reporters on Tuesday on condition of anonymity, said new equipment in the package, such as nine 30mm gun trucks, could “detect and intercept drones such as the Iranian-built Shahed[s]” that Moscow is currently using in the fight.

About $500 million of the aid package announced Tuesday will provide ammunition and equipment from U.S. military stockpiles with the help of the president’s authority. Another $2.1 billion will buy a range of ammunition and weapons for Ukraine in the future.

The US has now pledged more than $30 billion in security aid to Ukraine since the invasion. When viewed as a percentage of the donor country’s GDP, the United States ranks roughly 10th in its security donations to Kiev.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba walk during the NATO Foreign Ministers' Meeting at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels on April 4, 2023. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba walk during the NATO Foreign Ministers’ Meeting at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on April 4, 2023.

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell said on Tuesday that European leaders are sending a message to China that it cannot militarily support Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Speaking in Brussels where NATO foreign ministers are meeting, and ahead of his own visit to China next week, Borrell said the EU has been “clear with China that its position on Russia’s atrocities and war crimes will determine the quality of our relations with Beijing.”

He said other EU leaders visiting China, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron, are bringing the same message.

Speaking to reporters alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Borrell said the focus would be on further reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies and on increasing the production of clean energy.

Both diplomats were to attend a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting as the alliance formally welcomes Finland as a new member.

The raising of Finland’s flag at NATO headquarters comes less than a year after the country submitted its application in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ceremony falls on NATO’s own birthday, the 74th anniversary of the signing of the founding Washington Treaty on 4 April 1949.

Russia warned on Monday that it would strengthen forces near Finland if NATO sent additional troops or equipment to what will become its 31st member state.

NATO has said it has no immediate intention to intensify its presence in Finland. Some members have deployed troops there for war games in the past year.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Tuesday that Russia has been building up its military in the north for many years and that President Vladimir Putin has shown he is willing to use military force against his neighbors. Stoltenberg said Finland’s accession to NATO is the result of Putin’s “war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Describing the defensive nature of the NATO alliance, Stoltenberg said: “The purpose of NATO’s deterrence and defense is not to provoke the conflict, it is to prevent the conflict.”

Sweden applied to join NATO alongside Finland, but has seen its bid slowed by objections from Turkey, which says Sweden has been too lenient with groups Turkey considers terrorists.

“It is a great day to have Finland as a member, but we will make sure that Sweden also becomes a full member,” Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

Some material in this report came from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.