The United States announced Wednesday that it is doubling the number of deadly Himars rocket systems sent to Ukraine as part of a new military aid package worth $1.1 billion, reports AFP.
Here are some further details:
The 18 additional multiple rocket systems, which have pinpoint accuracy and have been used by Ukraine to wreak havoc on high-value Russian targets such as command posts and ammunition dumps, will be sent over the medium- and long-term, the Pentagon said.
Instead of weapons taken from existing stockpiles, this package will consist of newly procured arms, and the Himars alone could “take a few years,” according to a senior Pentagon official.
So far, 16 Himars have been deployed by the Ukrainians, and the rocket systems have been credited with playing a key role in recent counteroffensives against the invading Russians.
The latest package of orders for US military suppliers also includes 150 armored vehicles, 150 tactical vehicles for towing weapons, trucks and trailers, and systems to help Ukraine defend against Russia’s Iranian-made drones increasingly deployed on the battlefield, according to a Defense Department statement.
The new package took the total US military aid to Ukraine since the Russians invaded in late February to $16.2 billion.
On Moscow’s Red Square, giant video screens have been set up, with billboards proclaiming “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson – Russia!”
Moscow stands poised to formally annex a swath of Ukraine following so-called referendums that have been denounced by the west.
Residents who escaped to Ukrainian-held areas in recent days have told of people being forced to mark ballots in the street by roving officials at gunpoint.
The head of the upper house of the Russian parliament said it could consider the incorporation of the four regions on 4 October, three days before Russian President Putin’s 70th birthday, reports Reuters.
Russian milbloggers (military personnel who write blogs) discussed Ukrainian gains around Lyman with increased concern on Wednesday, suggesting that Russian forces in this area may face imminent defeat, according to the US-based Institute for the Study of War.
In its latest briefing, it says:
Several Russian milbloggers and prominent military correspondents claimed that Ukrainian troops advanced west, north, and northeast of Lyman and are working to complete the envelopment of Russian troops in Lyman and along the northern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River in this area.
Russian mibloggers stated that Ukrainian troops are threatening Russian positions and lines of communication that support the Lyman grouping. The collapse of the Lyman pocket will likely be highly consequential to the Russian grouping in northern Donetsk and western Luhansk oblasts and may allow Ukrainian troops to threaten Russian positions along the western Luhansk Oblast border and in the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area.
It adds the Russian Ministry of Defense “has not addressed current Russian losses around Lyman or prepared for the collapse of this sector of the frontline, which will likely further reduce already-low Russian morale.”
Russian military authorities previously failed to set sufficient information conditions for Russian losses following the first stages of the Ukrainian counteroffensives in Kharkiv Oblast, devastating morale and leading to panic among Russian forces across the Eastern axis. The subsequent ire of the Russian nationalist information space likely played a role in driving the Kremlin to order partial mobilization in the days following Ukraine’s initial sweeping counteroffensive in a haphazard attempt to reinforce Russian lines.
Future Ukrainian gains around critical areas in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblast may drive additional wedges between Russian nationalists and military leadership, and between Russian forces and their superiors.
It is now 7.45am in Ukraine. Here is a summary of the latest developments:
The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has proposed a fresh round of sanctions on Russia designed “to make the Kremlin pay” for escalating the conflict in Ukraine. The proposed eighth package of “biting” sanctions includes a cap on the price of Russian oil and further curbs on hi-tech trade.
Politicians across Europe have warned that the suspected sabotaging of the two Nord Stream pipelines could herald a new stage of hybrid warfare targeting vulnerable energy infrastructure in order to undermine support of Ukraine. Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, said his country would step up its military presence at Norwegian installations after the country became Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas.
A report drawn up by an international working group on sanctions concluded Russia should now be declared a “state sponsor of terrorism” and had reached the legal definition of a terrorist state under US and Canadian law. The head of the Office of the Ukrainian Presidency, Andriy Yermak, called for sweeping American and European sanctions in light of the report, after Ukraine accused Russia of sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines.
Moscow is poised to formally annex Russian-occupied regions after so-called referendums that have been denounced by the west. The Russian-installed leaders of the Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine have formally asked President Vladimir Putin to annex the occupied territories into Russia. Russia’s foreign ministry said action would be taken soon to meet the “aspirations” of four occupied Ukrainian regions to become part of Russia. Once annexed, Russia’s leadership has said it will consider attacks on the Russian-controlled areas as a direct attack on Russia.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Ukraine will “act to protect our people” in Russian-occupied regions after the what he described as “an imitation of referendums”. Ukraine’s foreign ministry said Kyiv and its allies “condemn such actions of Russia and consider them null and worthless”.
Britain’s prime minister, Liz Truss, told Zelenskiy in a phone call that the UK would never recognise Russian attempts to annex parts of Ukraine, Downing Street said. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also denounced the “illegal referenda and their falsified outcome” in Ukraine.
Gas prices have risen on fears that Russia could halt supplies to Europe through Ukraine, adding to turmoil caused by damage to the Nord Stream pipelines. The statement came after the discovery of leaks on the two Nord Stream gas pipelines near the Danish island of Bornholm in a suspected act of sabotage.
The Kremlin dismissed claims that Russia was behind the attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, describing them as “quite predictable and also predictably stupid”.
Authorities in the Russian region of North Ossetia, which borders Georgia, are reportedly putting in place travel restrictions to prevent people fleeing to Georgia to avoid conscription. The report by the Moscow Times cites the head of the region, Sergey Menyaylo, as saying that more than 20,000 people had entered Georgia through the section of the border in just the past two days.
The US embassy in Moscow has issued a security alert and urged American citizens to leave Russia immediately. In a statement on its website, it warned that dual Russian-US nationals may be called up as part of the Russian government’s mobilisation. US citizens should not travel to Russia and that those residing or travelling in the country should depart Russia immediately while limited commercial travel options remain, it said.
The governments of Romania, Bulgaria and Poland are urging any citizens that remain in the Russian Federation to leave urgently. That may be in anticipation of border crossings becoming much more difficult as routes out close and more people flee forced mobilisation in Russia.
Russian authorities say they are establishing checkpoints at some of the country’s borders to forcibly mobilise Russian men seeking to avoid mobilisation by fleeing the country. Social media footage shows military vehicles moving toward the border, reportedly to establish the mobilisation checkpoint.
Russia is mounting a more substantive defence than previously as Ukraine attempts to press forward “on at least two axes east”, according to the UK’s Ministry of Defence. Heavy fighting continued in the Kherson region, where the Russian force on the right bank of the Dnipro remained vulnerable, it said in its latest intelligence update.
Ukrainian authorities say they have identified five Russian soldiers who allegedly shot at civilian cars in the Kyiv region during the first days of the war. The Russian soldiers are charged with killing five people, and injuring a further six, who were trying to flee Hostomel on 25 February, a day after Russia invaded.