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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin assured on Tuesday that the fifty or so countries that make up the contact group for the defense of Ukraine are ready to maintain their support for the most urgent and also long-term Ukrainian defense capabilities.
The Pentagon chief said they will continue to boost Ukraine’s defensive capabilities for today’s urgent and long-term needs, speaking at the start of the sixth meeting of the contact group, which is being held at NATO headquarters ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers.
The Ukrainian Minister of Defense, Oleksii Reznikov, is also participating in the meeting to give a first-hand account of his country’s needs.
The Defense Secretary claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to mobilize more forces and claim sovereign Ukrainian territory for Russia and is using threats and irresponsible rhetoric.
Instead, he gave as an example the unity of the contact group countries in providing Ukraine with the weaponry it needs and which has made a difference on the battlefield time and time again.
He recalled that these countries have committed billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, as well as humanitarian and financial assistance, in addition to boosting new investments in industry to meet Ukrainian defense requirements.
The U.S. announced two weeks ago that it will send a new $1.1 billion military aid package to Ukraine, consisting of weapons and military equipment including 18 new High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), as well as hundreds of armored cars, radars and anti-drone batteries.
He explained that long-term support involves stepping up efforts to train Ukrainians to make the most of their new skills.
For her part, German Defense Minister Christine Labrecht stressed that Berlin’s shipment to Ukraine today of the first Iris-T air defense system is “a great support” for Kiev, and said that the remaining three systems will be shipped in 2023.
“We are doing everything possible to ensure that they are delivered as quickly as possible,” said the minister, who highlighted the fact that the first of the Iris-T systems was delivered in October instead of November, as initially planned.
Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anad announced upon her arrival a $15 million aid to buy winter equipment for the Ukrainian Army, such as gloves, boots, parkas and jackets, “the products needed by Ukrainian soldiers on the front line.”
Anad also announced an additional $15 million to acquire cameras for drones.
In addition, Dutch Defense Minister Kasja Ollongren recalled that military training is an important part of her country’s contribution to Ukraine, and assured that she will provide it with more ammunition for rocket defense systems.