WASHINGTON: The U.S. is planning to buy and send more medium- to long-range missile systems to Ukraine, a move officials hope will help Ukrainian forces hold onto the last remaining segments of land in the eastern Donbas that Russia has not yet been able to capture.
A senior defense official said Monday that Ukrainian forces are already effectively using advanced rocket systems, and that more of those will go into Ukraine with trained troops soon. A new plan for the U.S. to buy and send NASAMS, an advanced surface-to-air missile system, to Ukraine, is also in the works and would add to its longer-range rocket and missile strike capabilities.
President Joe Biden is expected to announce soon that the U.S. is purchasing NASAMS, a Norwegian-developed anti-aircraft system, to provide medium- to long-range defense for Ukraine, according to an administration official familiar with the matter. NASAMS is the same system used by the U.S. to protect the airspace around the White House and Capitol in Washington.
Both the defense official and the administration official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. military assessments and plans that have yet to be announced.
Russia has been mounting an all-out assault on the last Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Luhansk region — the city of Lysychansk — from the ground and air, the local governor said Monday. Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said Russian forces were pummeling Lysychansk after capturing the neighboring city of Sievierodonetsk in recent days.
It’s part of a stepped-up Russian offensive to wrest the broader Donbas region from Ukrainian government control in what Western experts say has become the new main goal of President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, now in its fifth month.
The defense official said the U.S. continues to see morale and other command and control problems among the Russian forces, and that some local Russian officials in Ukraine have been assassinated in recent days.
The U.S. has sent four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, into Ukraine, which already are being used. Four more will go in soon.
Officials said the U.S. also expects to send additional aid soon, including more ammunition for Ukrainian artillery, as well as counter-battery radars, to help counter the Russian assault in the Donbas.
The administration official said Biden is also announcing a $7.5 billion commitment to help Ukraine’s government meet its expenses, as part of a drawdown of the $40 billion military and economic aid package he signed into law last month.
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Elmau, Germany, contributed to this report.