Joe Biden said on Wednesday the U.S. will send another $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine, the largest single tranche of weapons and equipment since the war began. The aid will include anti-ship missile launchers, howitzers and more rounds for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems - all key weapons systems that Ukrainian leaders have urgently requested.
In recent days, Ukrainian officials have spoken of the heavy human cost of the war, with Kyiv’s forces outgunned and outnumbered in the east.
Ukrainian President Volodymy Zelenskyy thanked Mr. Biden for the new aid package.
“The security support of the United States is unprecedented,” he said, reporting on a phone call the two leaders held earlier on Wednesday. “It brings us closer to a common victory over the Russian aggressor.”
Meanwhile, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council, ominously suggested that Russia appears intent on not just claiming territory but eliminating Ukraine as a nation. In a Telegram post, he wrote that he saw Ukraine wants to receive liquefied natural gas from its “overseas masters” with payment due in two years.
He added: "But there’s a question. Who said that in two years, Ukraine will even exist on the map?”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr. Zelenskyy, responded on Twitter: “Ukraine has been and will be. Where will Medvedev be in two years? That’s the question.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the Russian military said it used long-range missiles to destroy a depot in the western Lviv region of Ukraine where ammunition for NATO-supplied weapons was stored, and the governor of a key eastern city acknowledged that Russian forces are advancing in heavy fighting.
The battle for Sievierodonetsk in Ukraine's eastern Donbas area has become the focus of Russia's offensive in recent weeks.
Russia-backed separatists accused Ukrainian forces of sabotaging an evacuation of civilians from the city's besieged Azot chemical plant, where about 500 civilians and an unknown number of Ukrainian fighters are believed to be sheltering from missile attacks. It wasn't possible to verify that claim.
Russian officials had announced a humanitarian corridor from the Azot plant a day earlier, but said they would take civilians to areas controlled by Russian, not Ukrainian, forces.
The Ukrainian governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, told The Associated Press that “heavy fighting in Sievierodonetsk continues today as well.” The situation in the city is getting worse, Haidai said, because Russian forces have more manpower and weapons.
“But our military is holding back the enemy from three sides at once,” he added.
In the Lviv region near the border with NATO member Poland, Russian forces used high-precision Kalibr missiles to destroy the depot near the town of Zolochiv, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. Mr. Konashenkov said shells for M777 howitzers, a type supplied by the United States, were stored there. He said four howitzers were destroyed elsewhere and that Russian airstrikes also destroyed Ukrainian “aviation equipment” at a military aerodrome in the southern Mykolaiv region.
Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment on the Zolochiv strike.
While focusing most of their attacks on eastern Ukraine, where they are trying to capture large swaths of territory, Russian forces have also been hitting more specific targets elsewhere, using high-precision missiles to disrupt the international supply of weapons and destroy military infrastructure. Civilian infrastructure has been bombarded as well, even though Russian officials have claimed they’re only targeting military facilities.
The latest attacks came as Ukraine keeps up its pressure on Western countries to deliver more arms and as NATO countries pledge more heavy weapons for Ukraine.