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Longer-range bombs in new US aid
But arms likely won’t arrive for expected Russian push in east
KYIV, Ukraine — The U.S. announced Friday it will send longer-range bombs to Ukraine, along with air defense systems and other weapons and ammunition as part of a new $2.17 billion aid package.
The rocket-propelled, GPS-guided, groundlaunched, small-diameter bombs (GLSDB) are fired from HIMARS rocket launchers and glide to targets up to 93 miles away, twice as far as the previously supplied U.S. rockets for HIMARS systems could reach.
Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder noted that the bombs will give the Ukrainian armed forces a longer range capability and enable them to “conduct operations in defense of their country and to take back their sovereign territory.”
Asked to comment on the U.S. move, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pointed to Thursday’s statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who likened the Russian action in Ukraine to fighting the Nazis in World War II and issued an ominous warning to the West for announcing new weapons shipments.
“Those who hope to defeat Russia on the battlefield apparently fail to understand that a modern war against Russia will be a completely different war for them,” Putin said. “We do not send our tanks to their borders, but we have something to respond with, and it is not limited to the use of armor.”
While the American weapons package unveiled Friday includes the longestrange weapons yet to push back Russian troops and strike logistical targets well behind enemy lines, they come with a hitch: They will be deployed on the battlefield too late to be used against a broad assault by Moscow that seemingly has begun to unfurl in eastern Ukraine.
That is also the case with most of the Western tanks, fighting vehicles and airdefense missiles that have been promised after months of pleas by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.
Most of the sophisticated weapons will also require rigorous training for Ukrainian troops, who have never used them, a process that usually takes months and sometimes as long as a year.
And some of the arms — including the rocketpropelled guided bombs that the United States is now offering — have to be retrofitted from existing stocks or even built from scratch.
Ukrainian forces are struggling to hold territory against Russia’s latest offensive, and Moscow is believed to be mobilizing at least 200,000 additional soldiers and possibly more.
Nevertheless, Zelenskyy vowed that his Ukrainian forces would continue to hold the embattled city of Bakhmut, even as Russian forces close in on the city after months of pitched battles that have turned the area in eastern Ukraine into a wasteland.
“No one will give away Bakhmut,” he said at a news conference Friday. “We consider Bakhmut to be our fortress.”
Moscow sees the town as a gateway to seizing the wider Donbas region, and securing Bakhmut would be its first significant victory in months.
Kyiv’s forces “have a chance” of beating back an expected Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine if supplied with the right Western weapons, Zelenskyy said.
“Our task is not to give them (an) opportunity (for revenge) until our army is strengthened with appropriate weapons. I think we have a chance,” he said.
France and Italy also agreed Friday to supply Ukraine with a SAMP/TMAMBA air-defense system, which French officials call the European equivalent of the Patriot system that the U.S. has given Ukraine. The missile battery is slated for delivery this spring.
Also on Friday, the European Union announced it will unveil its 10th package of sanctions against Russia on Feb. 24 to mark the anniversary of Moscow’s fullscale invasion of Ukraine, a senior official from the bloc said in Kyiv.
The sanctions will target technology used by Russia’s war machine, among other things, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference.
The sanctions will take aim in particular at components used in the manufacturing of drones, she said, naming Iran as a key supplier of Russia.
Closing loopholes that the Kremlin uses to circumvent sanctions will also be a priority, according to Von der Leyen, who was on her fourth visit to the Ukrainian capital since the war began.
The exact measures in the next EU sanctions package must be agreed upon by the bloc’s 27 member countries — a process that can take weeks.
Ukrainian authorities reported Friday that at least six civilians were killed and 20 others were wounded over the previous 24 hours.