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We must stay focused on Ukraine during ‘pivotal’ moment: US Defense Secretary

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine came at a “pivotal” moment and the United States with its allies must not lose focus on the three-month-long conflict, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday during a meeting with defence ministers in Brussels.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the North Atlantic Council, at the level of the Defence Ministers, and concerned weapon deliveries to Ukraine. It is the third time the group of nearly 50 countries have met to discuss and coordinate their assistance to Ukraine. The previous in-person meeting was at Ramstein Air Base in Germany in April.

Weapons needed

Ukraine needs 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks and 1,000 drones along with other heavy weapons, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Monday. Western countries have promised to provide NATO-standard weapons, which include advanced US rockets.

Ukraine requires consistent Western support to transition to new supplies and systems as stockpiles of their Soviet-era weapons and ammunition dwindle. However, providing this kind of military support will take time.

“We can’t afford to let up and we can’t lose steam. The stakes are too high,” the US Defense Secretary said at the outset of the meeting in Brussels.

[email protected]: I'm personally grateful for the significant security assistance that this [Ukraine Defense Contact Group] has provided thus far, but we can't afford to let up and we can't lose steam. The stakes are too high. pic.twitter.com/xlpSuLTrLO

— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) June 15, 2022

“Make no mistake: Russia’s unprovoked and indefensible invasion isn’t just a danger to Ukraine; it’s a menace to European security and it’s an affront to the rules-based international order that protects us all,” he added.

[email protected]: Make no mistake: Russia's unprovoked and indefensible invasion isn't just a danger to Ukraine; it's a menace to European security and it's an affront to the rules-based international order that protects us all. pic.twitter.com/voK1ENLEdX

— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) June 15, 2022

Before the start of the meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the allies would continue to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons and long-range systems and that he expected them to agree upon a new package of assistance to Kyiv at a NATO summit later this month.

US aid neccessary

NATO chief calls for stepping up weapons exports for Ukraine

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US officials are expecting announcements on additional weapons for Ukrainian forces in the coming days.

The United States has committed approximately USD 4.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s February 24 invasion, including artillery systems such as howitzers and longer-range weapons like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

According to Ukrainian officials, the country is losing up to 200 soldiers each day, with hundreds more being wounded. At an overnight address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the battle for the eastern Donbas region – which has been partly occupied by Moscow proxies since 2014 – as one of the most brutal battles in European history.


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