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U.S. defense officials have been sounding the alarm for weeks that the terrain will dictate a different type of battlefront in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and modern artillery will take center stage as Kyiv tries to fend off Russia’s attacks.
Russian soldiers pose by a T-80 tank in a position close to the Azovstal frontline in the besieged port city of Mariupol. (Maximilian Clarke/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
“The Kremlin has openly declared its intention to conquer eastern Ukraine, and developments on the ground leave little doubt we are witnessing the beginning stages of a massive offensive by Russia’s forces in the Donbas,” U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSEC) said in a Friday meeting in front of the Special Permanent Council in Vienna.
“All indications are that the battlefield dynamics will soon shift from closer-range combat to longer-range fires where artillery and multiple launch rocket systems are critical,” he added.
The U.S. announced this week that it will be sending another $800 million package to Ukraine stocked with security assistance that a senior U.S. defense official said was “strategically” planned with Ukrainians to help them with the looming fight in the Donbas.
Despite continued fighting and shelling in areas throughout the Donbas, the U.S. assesses that Russia has not yet launched its offensive campaign there and is instead still conducting a “shaping operations.”
The U.S. not only sent an additional supply of Howitzers, which are long-range weapons similar to a canon, tactical vehicles to tow the Howitzers, field equipment and spare parts, but the U.S. Air Force developed a “Phoenix Ghost” drone specifically designed for Ukrainian needs.
A senior defense official said the drone will have similar capabilities to that of a Switchblade drone – which is easily carried and launched by an individual soldier and detonates after it crashes into its target – but the complete scope of its capabilities remains undisclosed.
In this image taken from footage provided by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service, a Ukrainian soldiers use a launcher with US Javelin missiles during military exercises in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. (Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
Several other allies like the U.K., Canada, Czech Republic and the Netherlands have boosted their support for Ukraine. But nations like Germany have come under fire for their lackluster aid.
Germany attempted to fend off criticisms this week and claimed it had maxed out its ability to send arms to Kyiv, alleging Germany’s armed services have said it “can no longer supply weapons from its own reserves.”
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany would send Ukraine spare parts for its vehicles and defensive machinery and will work with other nations on increasing their defensive aid.
Scholz said this decision was backed by NATO allies including the U.S., but on Friday Washington’s ambassador to the OSEC scoffed at suggestions that anything but immediate aid was adequate.
DONETSK, UKRAINE – MARCH 01: Pro-Russian separatists, in uniforms without insignia, gather in the separatist-controlled settlement of Mykolaivka (Nikolaevka) and Bugas, in Donetsk region (DPR) of Ukraine on March 01, 2022. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
“Ukraine desperately needs modern weapons and ammunition to defend itself in this new and deadly phase of the conflict. It needs these weapons and ammunition now, as quickly as we can possibly get them there. Not long-term negotiated contracts to purchase weapons,” Carpenter said.
We must move swiftly, together, to immediately provide Ukraine with capabilities to protect its civilians from the horrors of this war – from atrocities like those in Bucha, Hostomel, and Borodianka,” he added.