The U.S. is to send Kyiv a shipment of arms and equipment amounting to roughly $2.5 billion amid worries that Ukraine has only a narrow window before an anticipated Russian springtime offensive.
U.S. officials announced last week that the shipment will include approximately 100 Stryker combat vehicles, demonstrating a shift toward providing more sophisticated weapons than they had earlier because of concerns of provoking Moscow.
Now, as Colin H. Kahl, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said, “The Russians are really digging in.” As such, Ukraine is in need of more mechanized infantry and armored personal carriers to punch through heavily fortified Russian defenses.
The shipment of Strykers — a medium-weight, eight-wheeled armored vehicle that was first deployed by the Pentagon in Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003 — was expected to be announced at a meeting of allies in Germany.
The decision comes just days after the United Kingdom committed to sending 14 Challenger battle tanks to Ukraine, The New York Times reported. Germany has also been pressed to provide Ukraine with some of their state-of-the-art Leopard 2 battle tanks.
The U.S. announcement comes weeks after the Biden administration announced a $3 billion package of military assistance. As reported earlier by The Dallas Express, that package included Bradley fighting vehicles, ammunition for HIMARS rocket artillery, 155-millimeter and 105-millimeter artillery rounds, other vehicles, and air defense systems.
The aim has been to improve Ukraine’s military capabilities and assist their units fighting Russian forces in the Donbas region of the country’s east.
“They’re digging trenches, they’re putting in these dragon’s teeth, laying mines,” Kahl said. “To enable the Ukrainians to break through given Russian defenses, the emphasis has been shifted to enabling them to combine fire and maneuver in a way that will prove to be more effective.”
Russia has concentrated its attack on Bakhmut in recent months, a key symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
Russia claims to have captured Soledar, a salt-mining town to the north of Bakhmut where locals have been trying to survive the bloodbath, as The Dallas Express previously reported. While U.S. intelligence currently contests this claim, Russia does appear to have taken Klishchiivka, a village to the southwest of Bakhmut that Ukraine has considered vital to the city’s defense.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia’s Wagner Group, said in a statement that the group’s fighters, who have been trying to advance in eastern Ukraine by any means necessary in recent weeks, now control Klishchiivka. He added that “fierce battles” were still happening around the village.
Early on Thursday, the Ukrainian Army said it had stopped Russian attacks on Klishchiivka over the past 24 hours, but there was no immediate response to the Wagner Group’s claim.
Losing the village could cut Bakhmut’s supply lines, threatening Ukraine’s grip on the city, the NYT reported.
Ukrainian officials estimate that over 20,000 Russian soldiers, some from the Wagner Group and elite airborne units, are closing in around the city.
The slated shipment of military weaponry, including Strykers, has not yet been finalized. However, it will likely be followed swiftly by another, as alluded to by Ned Price, spokesman for the U.S. State Department, when asked about it by CNN.
“Two words: stay tuned,” he replied.