US poised to announce new military aid, drones for Ukraine

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is poised to announce it will provide Ukraine with nearly $800 million in new military aid Friday, including at least a dozen Scan Eagle surveillance drones, according to several U.S. officials.

Officials said the bulk of the aid package will be additional Howitzers and ammunition, including Javelin missiles that the Ukrainian military has been using effectively to try and hold off Russian forces and take back territory Moscow has gained. Two officials confirmed the new inclusion of the portable, long-endurance drones which are launched by a catapult and can be retrieved.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the aid ahead of its public release.

For much of the last four months of the war, Russia has concentrated on capturing the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists have controlled some territory as self-proclaimed republics for eight years.

Russian forces have made some incremental gains in the east, but they have also been put on the defensive in other regions, as Ukraine ratchets up its attacks in Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. The Russian-occupied territory was seized by Moscow in 2014. Nine Russian warplanes were reported destroyed last week at an airbase on Crimea in strikes that highlighted the Ukrainians’ capacity to strike deep behind enemy lines.

Russian leaders have warned that striking facilities in Crimea marks an escalation in the conflict fueled by the U.S. and NATO allies and threatens to pull America deeper into the war.

This latest aid comes as Russia’s war on Ukraine is about to reach the six-month mark. Already the U.S. has sent Ukraine more than $9 billion in weapons systems, ammunition and other equipment. It would be the 19th time the Pentagon has provided equipment from Defense Department stocks to Ukraine since August 2021.

Efforts to tamp down the fighting have also continued. On Thursday, Turkey’s leader and the U.N. chief met in western Ukraine with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. They discussed a range of issues including prisoner exchanges and an effort to get U.N. atomic energy experts to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

The facility has been controlled by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began on Feb. 24 and has been the target of a number of explosions. Kyiv and Moscow accuse each other of shelling the plant, stoking international fears of a catastrophe on the continent.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would follow up with Russian President Vladimir Putin, given that most of the matters discussed would require the Kremlin’s agreement.

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